Authors: Danielle Steel
“No, sir, I cannot,” Peter said firmly. “I cannot give you my word yet. I hope I will one day very soon. I think we have developed one of the finest pharmaceutical products that the world has yet to see, and one desperately needed by cancer patients the world over. But I do not believe we are sufficiently risk-free yet.”
“Then you can't expect us to grant you permission for Phase One Human Trials at this time, can you, Mr. Haskell?” the senior member of the advisory committee asked him, looking confused, as a slight furor spread throughout the rest of the committee, as they asked each other why Peter had come here. FDA hearings were not usually used as a forum to tout unfinished products. But they admired his honesty at least, though none of them knew it had ever been in question. There was only one face in the room that was convulsed with fury. And there would be another at home when she told him that he had betrayed them.
“Would you like another date to come before us again, Mr. Haskell? That might be more appropriate than taking up more time now.' They had a full calendar before them. Peter had been the first of the afternoon, and there were several others after.
“I would like another date, sir. I believe six months is a realistic figure.” Even that would be tight, but from what Paul-Louis had just said, Peter thought they could make it.
“Thank you for coming.” And with that, they dismissed him and it was over. He walked out of the room on legs that were trembling, but his back was straight, his head was held high, and he felt like a decent human being. It was the only thing left to him now and he knew that. He saw Kate waiting for him in the distance, and he walked over to her. He couldn't imagine that she'd forgive him. There were tears on her cheeks when he walked up to her, and he wasn't sure if they were tears of rage or disappointment, probably both, but he didn't offer her any comfort.
“I'm sorry, Kate. I didn't plan to do that. I didn't realize what it would feel like, literally standing up before them and lying to them. They're an impressive bunch in there. I couldn't do it.”
“I never asked you to,” she lied, “I just wanted you not to betray my father.” And then she looked at him sadly. It was over and she knew it. For both of them. He wasn't willing to compromise for her anymore, to give up what he believed in. He had never realized how far it had gone, until that single moment. “You realize what you just did in there?” she said unkindly, prepared to defend her father to the death, but not her husband.
“I can figure it out.” But she had already made herself clear that morning across their kitchen table in Greenwich. And he didn't flinch now. In an odd way, this was what he wanted. Freedom.
“You're an honest man,” she said, looking at him. But on her lips it sounded like an accusation. “But not a very smart one.”
He nodded, and she turned and walked away, without even looking back at him, and he didn't follow her. It had been over for a long time, and neither of them had known it. He almost wondered if she'd ever been married to him, or maybe only to her father.
He had a lot to think about as he walked out of the FDA building in Rockville. Kate had just disappeared in the limo, leaving him stranded in Maryland, half an hour from Washington. But he didn't care. Not at all. It was one of the most important days of his life, and he felt as though he could fly now. He had been put to the test, and in his own mind, he had passed with flying colors…. Do you, sir, give us your word …No, I don't. He still couldn't believe he had done it, and he didn't know why he didn't feel worse about Kate, but he didn't. He had just lost his wife, his job, his home. He had appeared before Congress that morning, and before the FDA that afternoon, as the president of an international company, and he had walked out empty-handed, unemployed, and alone. He had nothing but his integrity, and the knowledge that he hadn't sold out. He had done it!
And as he stood smiling to himself, looking up at the September sky, he heard a voice just behind him. It was familiar but strange, and there was a husky quality to it that came from another time, another place, and as he turned with a look of astonishment, he saw Olivia standing just behind him.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, desperate to put his arms around her, but afraid to do it. “I thought you were in France, writing.” His eyes drank her in like wine, and she looked up at him with a small smile. She was wearing black slacks and a black sweater, and she had a red jacket slung over her shoulder. She looked like an ad for something very French, and all he could think of was the night he had followed her out of the Place Vendome, and all that had happened in the five days he'd been in Paris, five days that had changed their lives forever. She was even more beautiful now, and he realized as he looked at her, how desperately he had missed her.
“That was pretty good in there,” she said, smiling at him more broadly. She was obviously proud of him, but she hadn't answered his question. She had come to support him, even if invisibly, at the hearings. She had read about the hearings in the
in Europe. And she wasn't sure why, but she knew she had to be there. She knew how much Vicotec meant to him, and the trouble he'd been having with it when she last saw him. And she wanted to be there. Her brother had told her where the hearings would be, and arranged for her to attend them. And she was grateful now that she had followed her instincts. Edwin had told her about the congressional hearings too, and she had seen Peter in Congress that morning. She had been sitting quietly next to Edwin. And although he'd wondered about her sudden interest in the pharmaceutical industry, he hadn't asked her any questions.
“You're braver than you think,” Olivia reminded Peter as she looked up at him, and he pulled her slowly close to him, wondering how he had survived the last three and a half months without her. He couldn't imagine leaving her again, not for a single moment.
“No, you're brave,” he said softly, his eyes filled with admiration. She had given up everything, walked out on all of it, and compromised nothing. And then suddenly he realized that he had just done the same thing. He had given up his wife, his job, everything, for what he believed in. They were both free now. At a huge price, admittedly, but to both of them it had been worth it. “What are you doing this afternoon?” he asked with a grin. He could think of a thousand things, the Washington Monument …the Lincoln Memorial … a walk along the Potomac … a hotel room somewhere, or just standing there, looking at her forever … or a plane back to Paris.
“I'm not doing anything,” she smiled. “I came here to see you,” she said softly. She hadn't expected to talk to him, just to see him from the distance. “I'm going back tomorrow morning.” She hadn't even told her parents she was coming, just Edwin, and he had promised not to tell them. All she had hoped for was a glimpse of Peter, to see him again for a minute or two, even if he never knew it.
“Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” he asked, and they both smiled at the memory of the Place de la Concorde, and that first night in Montmartre, as he took her hand, and they walked down the steps to freedom.
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Copyright © 1995 by Danielle Steel
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A MAIN SELECTION OF THE LITERARY GUILD AND THE DOUBLEDAY BOOK CLUB
Books by Danielle Steel
|SUNSET IN ST. TROPEZ ||NO GREATER LOVE|
|THE COTTAGE ||HEARTBEAT|
|THE KISS ||MESSAGE FROM NAM|
|LEAP OF FAITH ||DADDY|
|LONE EAGLE ||STAR|
|THE HOUSE ON HOPE ||KALEIDOSCOPE|
| STREET ||FINE THINGS|
|THE WEDDING ||WANDERLUST|
|IRRESISTIBLE FORCES ||SECRETS|
|GRANNY DAN ||FAMILY ALBUM|
|BITTERSWEET ||FULL CIRCLE|
|MIRROR IMAGE ||CHANGES|
|HIS BRIGHT LIGHT:|
STORY OF NICK TRAINA
|THE KLONE AND I ||CROSSINGS|
|THE LONG ROAD HOME ||ONCE IN A LIFETIME|
|THE GHOST ||A PERFECT STRANGER|
|SPECIAL DELIVERY ||REMEMBRANCE|
|THE RANCH ||PALOMINO|
|SILENT HONOR ||LOVE: POEMS|
|MALICE ||THE RING|
|FIVE DAYS IN PARIS ||LOVING|
|LIGHTNING ||TO LOVE AGAIN|
|WINGS ||SUMMER'S END|
|THE GIFT ||SEASON OF PASSION|
|ACCIDENT ||THE PROMISE|
|VANISHED ||NOW AND FOREVER|
|MIXED BLESSINGS ||PASSION'S PROMISE|
|JEWELS ||GOING HOME|
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