Authors: Danielle Steel
Peter sat in his room that night, staring out the window, and feeling the warm air, unable to believe what had happened. It was incredible. And at ten o'clock, he was standing at his balcony, trying not to dwell on the possibility of failure. But all he could think of now were the dreams, and how close they had come, the hopes dashed and lives changed by what Paul-Louis had said to him, and might discover shortly. There was still hope, but there was certainly very little chance of an early release now. And appearing at the FDA hearings in September would be pointless. They wouldn't allow them to begin human trials, if there was still so much to work out. There was suddenly so much to think about. It was hard to wrap his mind around all of it, and finally at eleven o'clock, Peter decided to call Katie. It would have been nice to be able to tell her what was troubling him, but at least hearing her voice might cheer him up.
He dialed the number easily, but there was no answer. It was five o'clock in the evening, and even Patrick wasn't home. He wondered if Katie might have gone to friends for dinner. And as he set the receiver down, he was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of depression. Four years of hard work had all but gone down the drain in a single day, and along with it, almost everything he'd ever dreamed of. And there was no one to talk to about it. It was grim.
He stood at the balcony again for a little while, and thought about going out for a walk, but even strolling through Paris suddenly held little appeal, and instead, he decided to get some exercise to rid himself of his private demons. He glanced at the little card on the desk, and then walked swiftly down the stairs to the spa two floors below him. It was still open fortunately, and he had brought a dark blue bathing suit with him, just in case he had the opportunity to use it. He usually liked using the Ritz pool, but this time he hadn't been sure how much time he'd have to do it. As it turned out now, while he waited for Suchard to complete his tests, he had time to do a lot of things. He just wasn't in the mood to do them.
The attendant on duty seemed a little surprised when he walked in. It was almost midnight by then, and there was no one there. The spa appeared to be deserted and everything was silent. The single attendant had been reading a book quietly, and assigned Peter a changing room and gave him a key, and a moment later, he walked through the wading pool of disinfectant toward the main pool area. It was a large, handsome pool, and he was suddenly glad he had come here. It was just what he needed. He thought a swim might clear his head after everything that had happened.
He dove neatly into the pool from the deep end, and his long, lean body sliced through the water. He swam a considerable distance underwater, and then surfaced finally, and swam long clean strokes down the length of the pool, and then as he reached the far end, he saw her. She was swimming quietly, mostly underwater, and then she surfaced occasionally and went down again. She was so small and lithe that she almost disappeared in the large pool. She was wearing a simple black bathing suit, and when she surfaced, her dark brown hair looked black against her head, and her huge dark eyes seemed startled when she saw him. She recognized him instantly, but made no sign of recognition to him. She just dove under the water again and went on swimming as he watched her. It was so odd watching her, she was always so near, and yet so totally removed, in the elevator, both times, and now here. She was always tantalizingly close, and yet so far away that she might as well have been on another planet.
They swam silently at opposite ends of the pool for a while, and then passed each other several times, as they both did laps, working earnestly to flee their private torments, and then as though by design they both stopped at the far end of the pool. They were out of breath, and not knowing what else to do, unable to take his eyes from her, Peter smiled at her, and then she smiled in answer. And then just as suddenly, she swam away again before he could speak to her or ask her any questions. He hadn't been planning to anyway, but he suspected that she was used to that, people who hounded her, or wanted to know things they had no right to ask her. He was surprised to see that she wasn't accompanied by a bodyguard, and he wondered if anyone even knew she was down here. It was almost as though they didn't pay any attention to her. When he had seen her with the senator, they hadn't looked at her, or spoken to her, and she seemed perfectly content to be in her own world, just as she was now, as she continued swimming.
She came up at the far end from Peter this time, and not really intending to, he began to swim slowly toward her. He had no idea what he would have done if she had spoken to him with any real interest. But he couldn't imagine her doing that anyway. She was someone one looked at, or was fascinated by, an icon of sorts, a mystery. She was not a real person. And as though to prove what he thought, just as he approached, she stepped gracefully out of the pool, and with one swift gesture, wrapped herself in a towel, and when he looked up again, she was gone. He had been right after all. She wasn't a woman, only a legend.
He went back to his own room shortly after that, and thought about calling Kate again. It was nearly seven o'clock in Connecticut by then, and she was probably at home, having dinner with Patrick, unless they were out with friends.
But the odd thing was that he really didn't want to talk to her. He didn't want to put up a front for her, or tell her things were fine, nor could he tell her what had happened with Suchard. He couldn't trust her not to tell her father, but not being able to say anything to her made him feel oddly isolated as he lay on his bed at the Ritz in Paris. It was a special kind of purgatory, in a place meant only to be Heaven. And he lay there, in the warm night air, feeling better than he had before, physically at least. The swim had helped. And seeing Olivia Thatcher again had fascinated him. She was so beautiful, yet so unreal, and everything about her made him somehow feel that she was desperately lonely. He wasn't sure what made him think that, if it was just what he had read about her, or what was real, or what she had conveyed to him with those brown velvet eyes that looked so full of secrets. It was impossible to tell from looking at her, all he knew was that seeing her made him want to reach out and touch her, like a rare butterfly, just to see if he could do it, and if she would survive it. But like most rare butterflies, he suspected that if he touched her, her wings would turn to powder.
He dreamt of rare butterflies after that, and a woman who kept peeking at him from behind trees, in a lush, tropical forest. He kept thinking that he was lost, and as he would panic and begin to scream, he would always see her, and she would lead him silently to safety. He wasn't entirely sure who the woman was, but he thought it was Olivia Thatcher.
And when he woke in the morning, he was still thinking of her. It was the oddest feeling, more of a delusion than a dream. Seeing her close to him all night, in his dream, had actually given him the feeling that he knew her.
The telephone rang then. It was Frank. It was four o'clock in the morning for him, in Paris it was ten, and he wanted to know how the meeting with Suchard went.
“How did you know I'd see him yesterday?” Peter asked, trying to wake up and gather his wits about him. His father-in-law got up at four in the morning every day. And by six-thirty or seven, he was in the office. Even now, within months of retirement, or so he said, he hadn't altered his routine by so much as a minute.
“I know you left Geneva at noon. I figured you wouldn't waste any time. What's the good news?” Frank sounded buoyant, and Peter remembered only too clearly the shock of everything Paul-Louis Suchard had told him.
“They haven't finished their tests, actually,” Peter said, sounding intentionally vague, and wishing that Frank hadn't called him. “I'm going to wait here for the next few days until they're finished.”
Frank laughed as he listened to him, and for once the sound of it grated on Peter's nerves. What in God's name was he going to tell him? “You can't leave your baby alone for a minute, can you, son?” But he understood. They had all invested so much in Vicotec, money as well as time, and in Peter's case, his life's dreams had gone into backing their new product. At least Suchard hadn't said it was dead, Peter thought to himself, as he sat up in bed. All he had said was that it had problems. Serious ones to be sure, but there was still hope for his dream child. “Well, enjoy yourself in Paris for a few days. We'll hold the fort for you here. There's nothing dramatic happening at the office. And tonight, I'm taking Katie to dinner at '21'. As long as she doesn't mind your cooling your heels there, then I think I can get by without you.”
“Thanks, Frank. I'd like to be here to discuss the results with Suchard when he's through.” It didn't seem fair not to give Frank at least a hint of warning. “There have been a few kinks apparently.”
“Nothing serious, I'm sure,” Frank went on without giving it a second thought. The results in Germany and Switzerland had been just too good to cause them any real worry. Peter had thought so too, until Paul-Louis warned him that Vicotec was a potential killer. He just hoped now that they would all be proven wrong, and that the problems they uncovered by week's end were all minor. “What are you going to do with yourself while you hang around waiting?” Frank sounded amused more than anything. He liked his son-in-law, they had always been good friends. Peter was reasonable and a smart man, and he had proven to be an excellent husband for Katie. He let her do what she wanted to do, and didn't try to interfere with her having things the way she liked them. He let her live where she wanted to, send the boys to the right schools, “right” being Andover and Princeton. He came to Martha's Vineyard for a month every year, and he respected the relationship Frank and Katie had shared since her childhood. In addition, he was a brilliant president for Wilson-Donovan. He was a good father to the boys too. In fact, there was very little Frank didn't like about him, except that occasionally Peter could be stubborn about certain issues, like boarding school or family matters that Frank still sometimes felt weren't really his business.
His marketing ideas had made history, and thanks to him, Wilson-Donovan was the most successful pharmaceutical company in the industry. Frank himself had been responsible for growing the firm from a solid family business to a giant entity, but it was Peter who had helped it grow into an international empire. The
New York Times
wrote about him constantly, and the
Wall Street Journal
called him the wonder boy of the pharmaceutical world. In fact, only recently they had wanted an interview with him about Vicotec, but Peter had insisted that they weren't ready. And Congress had recently asked him to appear before an important subcommittee to discuss the ethical and economic issues involved in pharmaceutical pricing. But he hadn't yet told them when he could appear before them.
“I brought some work with me,” Peter said, glancing at the sunlit balcony, and with absolutely no desire to do it, in answer to his father-in-law's earlier question. “I thought I'd do some work on my computer and send it back to the office. I'll keep busy with that and a walking tour,” he said, thinking that he had the whole day before him.
“Don't forget to stock up on champagne,” Frank said jovially. “You and Suchard are going to have some celebrating to do. And we'll celebrate some more as soon as you get back to the office. Should I call the
today?” he asked casually, as Peter nervously shook his head, and stood up, looking very long and lean and naked.
“I'd wait. I think it's important to wait for the last tests, if nothing else to ensure our credibility,” he said soberly, wondering if anyone could see him through the open window. His dark hair was tousled, and he wrapped the sheet around his waist. The terry cloth robe from the hotel was just out of reach on a peach brocade chair halfway across his bedroom.
“Don't be such a nervous Nellie,” Frank exhorted him. “The tests are going to be fine. Call me as soon as you hear,” he said, suddenly anxious to get going himself, and get to the office.
“I will. Thanks for calling, Frank. Give my love to Kate, in case I don't reach her before you see her. She was out all day yesterday, and it's too early to call her now,” he said, by way of explanation.
“She's a busy girl,” her father said proudly. She was still a girl to him, and in some ways she hadn't changed since college. She still looked almost the way she had twenty-four years before when Peter had met her. She was lithe and blonde, “cute-looking,” her friends still said, and very athletic. She wore her hair short and had blue eyes like his, and there was something pixieish about her, except when she didn't get what she wanted. She was a good mother, and a good wife to Peter, and an exceptional daughter to Frank. They both knew that. “I'll give her your love,” Frank reassured him, and then hung up, as Peter sat in his room, wearing a sheet, and staring out the window. What was he going to say to him if it all blew up in their faces? How were they going to justify the millions they had spent, the billions they wouldn't make, at least not for a while, and not until they spent still more to correct the problems? Peter couldn't help wondering if Frank would be willing to do that. Would he be willing to pursue Vicotec as far as they had to, to make it perfect, or would he insist that they abandon the project? As chairman of the board, the decision was still his, but Peter was going to do everything he could to fight for it. He was always willing to go the long hauls for the big wins. Frank liked the quick, showy wins. Just getting him through the past four years of development had been hard enough, another year or two might be just too much, particularly in view of what it would have to cost them.
He ordered coffee and croissants from room service, and then picked up the phone. He knew he was supposed to wait for Suchard's call, but he just couldn't help it. He called Paul-Louis and was told that Dr. Suchard was in the laboratory and could not be interrupted. They were having a very important meeting. And all Peter could do was apologize, and go back to the agony of waiting. It seemed an eternity of days, waiting to hear from him. It had been less than twenty-four hours since their meeting the day before, and already Peter was ready to jump out of his skin with unbearable tension.