Authors: Danielle Steel
“Should I make an appointment with them now? I mean hell, August is only five weeks away. I'd hate to miss them. I'll only be there for a month.” He was only half teasing and she laughed at him.
“They're all grown up,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Does that mean I've been fired?” He looked genuinely startled. At fourteen, sixteen, and eighteen, the boys didn't have much use for their parents.
“More or less. You can play golf with my dad on weekends.” The irony was that she still spent more time with her father than her own sons did with their parents. But he didn't point it out to her, or say that their sons' reactions were far more normal.
And things were still more than a little strained between Peter and Frank. Only that week, Frank had approved an enormous research budget for Vicotec, conducted by double teams, working night and day, but he had still not agreed to cancel their appearance before the FDA, although Peter had grudgingly agreed to appear before Congress on pricing issues, to please Katie's father.
He didn't like doing it, but it wasn't worth fighting over, and it was prestigious for the firm for Peter to be seen there, He just didn't like having to defend the high prices they, and others in the industry, charged for products they didn't have to. But as Frank pointed out, they were in the business for profit. They were caring for mankind's ills, but they still expected to make money. But Peter wanted Vicotec to be different, he was hoping to convince Frank to make their profit on volume rather than astronomical prices. And for the beginning at least, there would be no competition for the product. But for the moment, Frank wasn't willing to discuss it. All he wanted was Peter's promise that he would still try to get to the FDA with it by September. It had become an obsession. He wanted to bring Vicotec into the marketplace as fast as he could, at all costs. He wanted to make history, and several million dollars.
He continued to insist that they had plenty of time, and with any luck at all, they'd “work the kinks out” before September. Peter had finally stopped arguing with him, and knew that, if need be, they'd withdraw from the hearings later. There was a slim chance they could be ready by then, but according to Suchard, it was doubtful. And Peter thought Frank's goals were unrealistic.
“What about bringing Suchard here? That might speed things up a little,” Peter suggested, but Frank didn't think it was a good idea, and when Peter called Paul-Louis to discuss it with him, he was told that Dr. Suchard was on vacation. Peter thought that surprising, and was annoyed at his timing. But no one in Paris knew where he had gone for his holiday, and there was nothing Peter could do to find him.
It was the very end of June before things seemed calm again, and by then it was time for Frank, Kate, and the boys to leave for the Vineyard. Peter was going to spend the Fourth of July weekend with them, and then come back to town and start commuting. He was going to use the company studio in town during the week, and work longer hours at the office. And then go to Martha's Vineyard on the weekends. Monday through Friday, he wanted to be available to the research teams, to help them in any way they wanted. And he liked staying in the city. It was lonely for him in Greenwich anyway, without Kate or the children. It was a great opportunity to get a lot of work done.
But it wasn't only work he had on his mind at the end of June. He had seen the announcement two weeks before that Andy Thatcher would be running for president, first in the primaries, and if he won them, in the national elections a year from November. And Peter had noticed with interest that when Thatcher held his first press conference, and even subsequent ones, Olivia had been standing beside him. They had promised each other not to call, so he could hardly call now to ask her about it. Her sudden high visibility at Andy Thatcher's side was disconcerting to him, and he wondered what it meant in light of her earlier plan to leave him. But they had agreed not to call each other, and as hard as it was, Peter stuck by it. And he decided that her regular appearances at Andy's side in the political arena clearly meant that she had decided not to leave him. He wondered how she felt about it, and if Andy had somehow manipulated that decision. Knowing what he did of her, and their relationship, it seemed unlikely that she had done it out of affection. If anything she had stuck by him out of a sense of duty. He didn't really want to believe it was because she loved him.
It was strange how they had to go on with their lives, after the brief time they'd spent together in France. And he couldn't help wondering if, for her, like for him, suddenly everything was different. At first he had tried desperately to resist it, to tell himself that nothing had changed. But things that had never bothered him before were suddenly major problems. Suddenly everything Kate said or did seemed to have something to do with her father. His work seemed more difficult. The research on Vicotec had wrought no changes yet. And Frank had never been as unreasonable as he was now. Even his sons didn't need him. But worst of all, Peter felt as though there was no joy in his life anymore, no excitement, no mystery, no romance. There were none of the things he had shared with Olivia in France. But most painful of all, there was no one to talk to. He had never realized over the years how far he and Katie had drifted apart, how busy she was with other things, and how totally preoccupied she was with her own activities and friends, most of which involved committees or women. There seemed to be no room for him anymore, and the only man who mattered to her at all was her father.
He wondered if he was being sensitive, or unreasonable, if he was still overtired, or overwrought after the disappointment over Vicotec, but he didn't think so. And even when he went to the Vineyard with them for the Fourth of July, everything irked him. He felt out of step with their friends, out of synch with her, and even here he felt as though he hardly saw the boys. It was as though, without even realizing it, everything had changed, and his life with her was over. It was incredible as he watched his life unravel. He wondered too if he was somehow forcing things to a showdown with her, without realizing it, as though to justify what he'd done with Olivia in the south of France. Doing that in a defunct marriage would have been more understandable, more easily forgivable, but doing it in a live one was more difficult to live with.
He found himself searching the newspapers for photographs of Olivia, and on the Fourth of July, he saw Andy on TV. He was at a rally on Cape Cod, and there was coverage of him with his enormous sailboat tied up at the dock just behind him. He suspected that Olivia was there somewhere, nearby, but try as he might, he couldn't see her.
“What are you doing, watching television in the middle of the day?” Katie had found him in their room, and when he glanced at her, it was hard not to notice her still-trim figure. She was wearing a bright blue bathing suit and the gold bracelet with the heart dangling from it that he had brought her from Paris. But even with her blond hair and her pert face, she didn't have the powerful effect on him that Olivia had on him each time he saw her. It made him feel guilty all over again, and Kate was startled by his worried expression. “Is something wrong?” she asked. Things had been difficult between them for a while now. He seemed testier than usual, and more irritable, which wasn't like him. He had been that way ever since his last trip to Europe.
“No, everything's fine. I just wanted to see the news.” He looked away from her, aiming the remote control at the TV with a vague expression.
“Why don't you come outside and swim?” she said, smiling. She was always happy there. It was a pleasant place, and their house there was easy to maintain. And she enjoyed being surrounded by her children and their friends. It had always been a good place for her and Peter too. Although this summer everything seemed slightly different. There was a lot of pressure on him, with the research being conducted on Vicotec, and all she could do was hope that it would go well and they'd get the results Peter and her father wanted. But for the moment, Peter seemed unhappy and distant.
It was two full weeks later before he was able to find out the truth at the laboratory, and Peter sat and stared into space after he hung up. He couldn't believe what he'd heard, and he drove all the way to Martha's Vineyard to discuss it in person with Katie's father.
him? Why? How could you do that?” Frank Donovan had shot the messenger that had brought them the bad news. He still didn't understand that in the long run Paul-Louis had saved them.
“He's a fool. He's a nervous old woman seeing demons in the dark. There was no reason to keep him.” For the first time in eighteen years, Peter was beginning to think that his father-in-law was crazy.
“He's one of the foremost scientists in France, Frank, and he's forty-nine years old. What are you doing? We could have used him here to help us speed up our research.”
“Our research is going fine. I discussed it with them yesterday. They tell me they'll be ready to roll by Labor Day. There will be no kinks left in Vicotec by then, no 'flaws,' no ghosts, no danger.” But Peter didn't believe him.
“Can you prove that? Are you sure? Paul-Louis said it might take a year.”
“That's my point. He didn't know what he was saying.” But Peter was frightened by what Frank had done, and he used company records to locate Paul-Louis, and he called him his first night back in New York to tell him how sorry he was, and talk to him about Vicotec, and their progress.
“You're going to kill someone,” Paul-Louis said in heavily accented English. But he had been touched by the call, and he had always had a great deal of respect for Peter. At first he'd been told that his dismissal had been Peter's idea, but later he had learned that the order actually came all the way from the chairman. “You cannot take a chance on it yet,” Paul-Louis reiterated. “You must go through all the tests, and it will take months, even with double teams working around the clock. You must not let them do this.”
“I won't. I promise you that. I appreciate Everything you've done. I'm just sorry about the way it happened.” And he genuinely meant it.
“It's all right,” the Frenchman shrugged, smiling philosophically. He had already had another offer from an important German pharmaceutical company with a large factory in France, but he wanted to take some time off to ponder his decision. And he had gone to Brittany to do that. “I understand. I wish you good luck with this. It could be a wonderful product.”
The two men chatted for a little while, and Paul-Louis promised to keep in touch, and the following week Peter followed their research results even more closely. If Paul-Louis was right, they still had a lot of work to do before they could “greenlight” the product in good conscience.
But by the end of July, they seemed to be making good progress. And Peter was encouraged when he left for his vacation in Martha's Vineyard. The research department had promised to fax him daily reports from the office. But as a result, he found it harder to relax than usual. He seemed constantly tied by the umbilical cord of his fax machine to both the research on Vicotec, and his office.
“You're not having any fun this year,” his wife complained, but she didn't pay much attention to him either. She had lots of friends to see, gardening to do, and she was spending a lot of time at her father's place, helping him renovate, and deciding whether or not to remodel his summer kitchen. She helped him entertain his friends, and organized several dinner parties for him, which she and Peter attended. But Peter complained about that too. He said she was never around, and every time he saw her, she was rushing off to meet her father.
”What's happening to you? You were never jealous of Daddy before. I feel like I'm being pulled by both of you,” she said, looking annoyed. Peter had always been so good about the things she did with her father, and now he complained constantly. And her father wasn't any better, he was still angry at Peter for his position about Vicotec.
There was a definite tension between the two men that year, and by mid-August, Peter was ready to go back to town, and use work as an excuse. He had had it. He wasn't sure what it was, maybe it was just him, but he had had several arguments with the kids, he thought Katie was being unusually difficult, and he was sick to death of going to Frank's house for dinner. On top of it the weather had been miserable, and they had had a week of storms, and there was the threat of a hurricane coming up from Bermuda. By the third day, he sent everyone to the movies, and he had secured the shutters, and tied down the terrace furniture. Later he was eating lunch in front of the television, watching a ball game, when he switched to the news during a break just to hear about Hurricane Angus. But he was instantly startled when he saw a picture of an enormous sailboat followed by a still photograph of Senator Andy Thatcher. The coverage had already been on for a while, and the anchor was talking about “…the tragedy occurred late last night. And the bodies have not, as yet, been recovered. The senator has been unavailable for comment.”
“Oh my God,” Peter said it aloud to himself, and suddenly he was standing there, as he put his sandwich down on the table behind him. He had to know what had happened to her. Was she dead or alive, was it her body they were searching for? He was near tears as he stared at the tube and began frantically changing channels.
“Hi, Dad. What inning?” Mike asked as he drifted through the room, back from the movie. Peter hadn't heard them come in, and he looked like a ghost as he faced him.
“No inning … no score … I don't know …never mind …” He looked back at the TV again, as Mike left, but at first Peter couldn't find it. And then he found it on Channel Two, and this time he heard it almost from the beginning. They had been caught in a storm in treacherous waters just outside Gloucester, in Andy's hundred-and-ten-foot sailboat. And in spite of its size and alleged stability, they had hit some rocks in a storm, and the boat had sunk in barely more than ten minutes. There had been roughly a dozen people aboard. The boat was computerized and Thatcher had been sailing it himself with the help of only a single deckhand, and some friends. For the moment, several passengers were missing, but the senator himself had survived. His wife had been aboard, and her brother the junior congressman from Boston, Edwin Douglas. But tragically, the congressman's wife and both young children had been swept overboard. Her body had been found early that morning, but neither of the children had been found yet. And then, in a single breath, the anchor said that the senator's wife, Olivia Douglas Thatcher, had nearly drowned. She was still in critical condition in Addison Gilbert Hospital, and had been rescued late the night before by the Coast Guard. She had been found unconscious, but had been kept afloat in the storm by her life vest.