Danielle Steel


© 1981

To my favorite little cowboy, Maxx.

With all my love, D.S.



Hurrying up the steps of the brownstone on East Sixty-third Street, Samantha squinted her eyes against the fierce wind and driving rain, which was turning rapidly into sleet. It whipped her face and tingled as it pricked at her eyes. She made a soft purring noise, as though to urge herself on, and then stopped, gasping, as she fought with the lock, her key refusing to turn. Finally, finally, the door gave, and she fell into the warmth of the front hall. For a long moment she just stood there, shaking the dampness off her long silvery blond hair. It was a color one rarely saw, like spun silver meshed with fine gold; a towhead they had called her as a child, and she had hated it, and then in her teens and twenties her hair had won her lavish praise. Now at thirty she was used to it, and when John had told her that she looked like a fairy princess, she laughed at him, her blue eyes dancing, her beautiful, delicately angular face in sharp contrast to the full breasts and softly rounded hips. Her legs were long and thin and endless.

She was a woman of a thousand contrasts, huge dancing eyes with a sharp look that saw all, in sudden contrast to the sensual fullness of her mouth, the narrow shoulders, large breasts, the long graceful hands; the softness of her voice in contrast to the intelligent precision of her words. Somehow one expected Samantha Taylor to have a southern drawl, to languish on a velvet chaise longue, her form framed by a negligee trimmed in marabou. Instead she was given to jeans and bounded across rooms with a long stride. She was filled with energy and life, except tonight, except for the past hundred nights.

She stood now, as she had since late August, silent, still, waiting, the rain running off the tips of her hair, listening… but for what? There was no one here anymore. She was alone in the old brownstone. The couple who owned it had been in London for six months, their duplex apartment had been lent to a cousin who was almost never there. A reporter for Paris-Match, he spent more time in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Chicago than he did in New York. And then there was the top floor. Samantha's domain… Samantha's… only hers now, although once upon a time it was Samantha and John's, an apartment they had put together with such devotion and such care. Every elegant inch of it, dammit. Samantha thought of it again with a small frown as she left her umbrella in the front hall and made her way slowly upstairs. She hated to come home now and managed to see to it that she came home later every night. It was almost nine o'clock this evening. But it had been later than that the night before. She wasn't even hungry. She hadn't been since she had first heard the news.

“You're what?” She had stared at him in horror on a broiling August evening. The air conditioner was broken, and the air was heavy and still. She had come to greet him at the front door, wearing only white lace underpants and a little lilac bra. “Are you crazy?”

“No.” He had stared at her, looking wooden and strained. Only that morning they had made love. And now his Viking-like blond beauty seemed… beyond her reach. He looked like someone she didn't even know. “I can't lie to you anymore, Sam. I had to tell you. I've got to get out.”

For what seemed like hours she had only stared at him. He couldn't mean it. He had to be kidding. But he wasn't. That was the insanity of it. He was deadly serious. She knew it from the look of agony on his face. She walked slowly toward him, but he shook his head and turned away. “Don't… please don't.” His shoulders shook softly, and for the first time since he had spoken she felt pity slice through her like a shaft of pain. But why was she feeling sorry for him? Why? How could she feel sorry for him after what he had just said?

“Do you love her?” The shoulders she had loved so much only shook more, and he said nothing. But the pity began to fade now as Samantha moved toward him. Anger began to boil within her soul. “Answer me, dammit.” She yanked hard on his shoulder, and he turned to look into her eyes.

“Yes. I think so. But, Sam, I don't know. I just know I have to get out of here for a while so I can figure it out.”

She stalked across the room, stopping only when she reached the far side of the delicate French rug that looked like a carpet of flowers beneath her bare feet. There were tiny violets and small dusty-colored roses, and a myriad of still smaller flowers one had to stoop to see. The overall impression was one of pastel pinks and reds and mauves; it was a warm link to the soft-pinks and mauves and deep dusty green on the couches and chairs that filled the large wood-paneled room. The house was an old brownstone, and the top floor was theirs. And Samantha had taken two years to decorate it, lovingly, with beautiful pieces of Louis XV furniture that she and John bought together at antique shops and auctions at Sotheby Parke Bernet. The fabrics were all French, the vases constantly filled with freshly cut flowers, the paintings all Impressionistic, and the overall feeling of the apartment was decidedly European and very elegant. Yet there was a cozy side to it too, as there was to Sam. It wasn't the beauty of the apartment she was seeing now as she stood with her back to her husband, wondering if they would ever be the same again. It was as though one of them had just died, as though everything had been instantly and irretrievably shattered and would never be repaired. And all with a few well-chosen words.

“Why didn't you tell me?” She turned and her face was filled with accusation.

“I…” He began but couldn't finish. There was nothing he could say now to make it better, to take back the pain he had just inflicted on the woman he had once so greatly loved. But seven years was a long time. It should have been long enough to solder them to each other forever, and yet it hadn't, and somehow, somehow, during the election coverage the year before, he had slipped. He had meant to end it when they all got back from Washington. He had really meant to. But Liz hadn't let him, and it had gone on. And on, and on… until now she had forced his hand. And the bitch of it was that she was pregnant and refused to get rid of the kid. “I didn't know what to tell you, Sam. I didn't… and I thought-”

“I don't give a damn what you thought!” Suddenly her eyes blazed at the man she had known and loved for eleven years. They had become lovers at nineteen. He had been the first man she had ever slept with, when they were both at Yale. He had been so big and blond and beautiful, a football hero, the big man on campus, the golden boy everybody loved, including Sam, who worshiped him from the first moment they met. “You know what I thought, you son of a bitch? I thought you were faithful to me. That's what I thought. I thought you gave a damn. I thought”-her voice quavered for the first time since he'd said the awful words-“I thought you loved me.”

“I do.” There were tears running slowly down his cheeks as he said the words.

“Oh, yeah?” She was crying openly now and she felt as though he had just torn out her heart and thrown it on the floor. “Then how come you're moving out? How come you walked in here like a crazy person, dammit, and when I said, ‘Hi, babe, how was your day?’ you said, ‘I'm having an affair with Liz Jones and I'm moving out.’” Her voice was growing hysterical as she advanced on him. “Can you explain that to me? And just how long have you been involved with her anyway? God damn you, John Taylor… God damn you…” As though she couldn't stop herself, she rushed at him, fists flailing, and then pulling at his hair, trying to maul his face; he resisted her with ease and pulled

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