Chapter Ten

The day after the Abraham Wilson verdict, Adam Warner telephoned. "I just called to congratulate you."

Jennifer recognized his voice instantly and it affected her more than she would have believed possible.

"This is - "

"I know." Oh, God, Jennifer thought. Why did I say that? There was no reason to let Adam know how often she had thought about him in the past few months.

"I wanted to tell you I thought you handled the Abraham Wilson case brilliantly. You deserved to win it."

"Thank you." He's going to hang up, Jennifer thought. I'll never see him again. He's probably too busy with his harem.

And Adam Warner was saying, "I was wondering if you'd care to have dinner with me one evening?"

Men hate overeager girls. "What about tonight?"

Jennifer heard the smile in his voice. "I'm afraid my first free night is Friday. Are you busy?"

"No." She had almost said, Of course not.

"Shall I pick you up at your place?"

Jennifer thought about her dreary little apartment with its lumpy sofa, the ironing board set up in a corner. "It might be easier if we met somewhere."

"Do you like the food at Lutece?"

"May I tell you after I've eaten there?"

He laughed. "How's eight o'clock?"

"Eight o'clock is lovely."

Lovely. Jennifer replaced the receiver and sat there in a glow of euphoria. This is ridiculous, she thought. He's probably married and has two dozen children. Almost the first thing Jennifer had noticed about Adam when they had had dinner was that he was not wearing a wedding ring. Inconclusive evidence, she thought wryly. There definitely should be a law forcing all husbands to wear wedding rings.

Ken Bailey walked into the office. "How's the master attorney?" He looked at her more closely. "You look like you just swallowed a client."

Jennifer hesitated, then said, "Ken, would you run a check on someone for me?"

He walked over to her desk, picked up a pad and pencil. "Shoot. Who is it?"

She started to say Adam's name, then stopped, feeling like a fool. What business had she prying into Adam Warner's private life? For God's sake, she told herself, all he did is ask you to have dinner with him, not marry him. "Never mind."

Ken put the pencil down. "Whatever you say."

"Ken - "

"Yes?"

"Adam Warner. His name is Adam Warner."

Ken looked at her in surprise. "Hell, you don't need me to run a check on him. Just read the newspapers."

"What do you know about him?"

Ken Bailey flopped into a chair across from Jennifer and steepled his fingers together. "Let me see. He's a partner in Needham, Finch, Pierce and Warner; Harvard Law School; comes from a rich socialite family; in his middle thirties - "

Jennifer looked at him curiously. "How do you know so much about him?"

He winked. "I have friends in high places. There's a rumor they're going to run Mr. Warner for the United States Senate. There's even a little presidential ground swell going on. He's got what they call charisma."

He certainly has, Jennifer thought. She tried to make her next question sound casual. "What about his personal life?"

Ken Bailey looked at her oddly. "He's married to the daughter of an ex-Secretary of the Navy. She's the niece of Stewart Needham, Warner's law partner."

Jennifer's heart sank. So that was that.

Ken was watching her, puzzled. "Why this sudden interest in Adam Warner?"

"Just curious."

Long after Ken Bailey had left, Jennifer sat there thinking about Adam. He asked me to dinner as a professional courtesy. He wants to congratulate me. But he's already done that over the telephone. Who cares why? I'm going to see him again. I wonder whether he'll remember to mention he has a wife. Of course not. Well, I'll have dinner with Adam on Friday night and that will be the end of that.

Late that afternoon, Jennifer received a telephone call from Peabody & Peabody. It was from the senior partner himself.

"I've been meaning to get around to this for some time," he said. "I wondered if you and I might have lunch soon."

His casual tone did not deceive Jennifer. She was sure the idea of having lunch with her had not occurred to him until after he had read about the Abraham Wilson decision. He certainly did not want to meet with her to discuss serving subpoenas.

"What about tomorrow?" he suggested. "My club."

They met for lunch the following day. The senior Peabody was a pale, prissy man, an older version of his son. His vest failed to conceal a slight paunch. Jennifer liked the father just as little as she had liked the son.

"We have an opening for a bright young trial attorney in our firm, Miss Parker. We can offer you fifteen thousand dollars a year to start with."

Jennifer sat there listening to him, thinking how much that offer would have meant to her a year earlier when she had desperately needed a job, needed someone who believed in her.

He was saying, "I'm sure that within a few years there would be room for a partnership for you in our firm."

Fifteen thousand dollars a year and a partnership. Jennifer thought about the little office she shared with Ken, and her tiny, shabby four-flight walk-up apartment with its fake fireplace.

Mr. Peabody was taking her silence for acquiescence. "Good. We'd like you to begin as soon as possible. Perhaps you could start Monday. I - "

"No."

"Oh. Well, if Monday's not convenient for you - "

"I mean, no, I can't take your offer, Mr. Peabody," Jennifer said, and amazed herself.

"I see." There was a pause. "Perhaps we could start you at twenty thousand dollars a year." He saw the expression on her face. "Or twenty-five thousand. Why don't you think it over?"

"I've thought it over. I'm going to stay in business for myself."

The clients were beginning to come. Not a great many and not very affluent, but they were clients. The office was becoming too small for her.

One morning after Jennifer had kept two clients waiting outside in the hallway while she was dealing with a third, Ken said, "This isn't going to work. You're going to have to move out of here and get yourself a decent office uptown."

Jennifer nodded. "I know. I've been thinking about it."

Ken busied himself with some papers so that he did not have to meet her eyes. "I'll miss you."

"What are you talking about? You have to go with me."

It took a moment for the words to sink in. He looked up and a broad grin creased his freckled face.

"Go with you?" He glanced around the cramped, windowless room. "And give up all this?"

The following week, Jennifer and Ken Bailey moved into larger offices in the five hundred block on Fifth Avenue. The new quarters were simply furnished and consisted of three small rooms: one for Jennifer, one for Ken and one for a secretary.

The secretary they hired was a young girl named Cynthia Ellman fresh out of New York University.

"There won't be a lot for you to do for a while," Jennifer apologized, "but things will pick up."

"Oh, I know they will, Miss Parker." There was heroine worship in the girl's voice.

She wants to be like me, Jennifer thought. God forbid!

Ken Bailey walked in and said, "Hey, I get lonely in that big office all by myself. How about dinner and the theater tonight?"

"I'm afraid I - " She was tired and had some briefs to read, but Ken was her best friend and she could not refuse him.

"I'd love to go."

They went to see Applause, and Jennifer enjoyed it tremendously. Lauren Bacall was totally captivating. Jennifer and Ken had supper afterward at Sardi's.

When they had ordered, Ken said, "I have two tickets for the ballet Friday night. I thought we might - "

Jennifer said, "I'm sorry, Ken. I'm busy Friday night."

"Oh." His voice was curiously flat.

From time to time, Jennifer would find Ken staring at her when he thought he was unobserved, and there was an expression on his face that Jennifer found hard to define. She knew Ken was lonely, although he never talked about any of his friends and never discussed his personal life. She could not forget what Otto had told her, and she wondered whether Ken himself knew what he wanted out of life. She wished that there were some way she could help him.

It seemed to Jennifer that Friday was never going to arrive. As her dinner date with Adam Warner drew closer, Jennifer found it more and more difficult to concentrate on business. She found herself thinking about Adam constantly. She knew she was being ridiculous. She had seen the man only once in her life, and yet she was unable to get him out of her mind. She tried to rationalize by telling herself that it was because he had saved her when she was facing disbarment proceedings, and then had sent her clients. That was true, but Jennifer knew it was more than that. It was something she could not explain, even to herself. It was a feeling she had never had before, an attraction she had never felt for any other man. She wondered what Adam Warner's wife was like. She was undoubtedly one of the chosen women who, every Wednesday, walked through the red door at Elizabeth Arden's for a day of head-to-toe pampering. She would be sleek and sophisticated, with the polished aura of the wealthy socialite.

On the magic Friday morning at ten o'clock, Jennifer made an appointment with a new Italian hairdresser Cynthia had told her all the models were going to. At ten-thirty, Jennifer called to cancel it. At eleven, she rescheduled the appointment.

Ken Bailey invited Jennifer to lunch, but she was too nervous to eat anything. Instead, she went shopping at Bendel's, where she bought a short, dark green chiffon dress that matched her eyes, a pair of slender brown pumps and a matching purse. She knew she was far over her budget, but she could not seem to stop herself.

She passed the perfume department on the way out, and on an insane impulse bought a bottle of Joy perfume. It was insane because the man was married.

Jennifer left the office at five o'clock and went home to change. She spent two hours bathing and dressing for Adam, and when she was finished she studied herself critically in the mirror. Then she defiantly combed out her carefully coiffured hair and tied it back with a green ribbon. That's better, she thought. I'm a lawyer going to have dinner with another lawyer. But when she closed the door she left behind a faint fragrance of rose and jasmine.

Lutece was nothing like what Jennifer had expected. A French tricolor flew above the entrance of the small town house. Inside, a narrow hall led to a small bar and beyond was a sunroom, bright and gay, with porch wicker and plaid tablecloths. Jennifer was met at the door by the owner, Andre Soltner.

"May I help you?"

"I'm meeting Mr. Adam Warner. I think I'm a little early."

He waved Jennifer toward the small bar. "Would you care for a drink while you are waiting, Miss Parker?"

"That would be nice," Jennifer said. "Thank you."

"I'll send a waiter over."

Jennifer took a seat and amused herself watching the bejeweled and mink-draped women arriving with their escorts. Jennifer had read and heard about Lutece. It was reputed to be Jacqueline Kennedy's favorite restaurant and to have excellent food.

A distinguished-looking gray-haired man walked up to Jennifer and said, "Mind if I join you for a moment?"

Jennifer stiffened. "I'm waiting for someone," she began. "He should be here - "

He smiled and sat down. "This isn't a pickup, Miss Parker." Jennifer looked at him in surprise, unable to place him. "I'm Lee Browning, of Holland and Browning." It was one of the most prestigious law firms in New York. "I just wanted to congratulate you on the way you handled the Wilson trial."

"Thank you, Mr. Browning."

"You took a big chance. It was a no-win case." He studied her a moment. "The rule is, when you're on the wrong side of a no-win case, make sure it's one where there's no publicity involved. The trick is to spotlight the winners and kick the losers under the rug. You fooled a lot of us. Have you ordered a drink yet?"

"No - "

"May I - ?" He beckoned to a waiter. "Victor, bring us a bottle of champagne, would you? Dom Perignon."

"Right away, Mr. Browning."

Jennifer smiled. "Are you trying to impress me?"

He laughed aloud. "I'm trying to hire you. I imagine you've been getting a lot of offers."

"A few."

"Our firm deals mostly in corporate work, Miss Parker, but some of our more affluent clients frequently get carried away and have need of a criminal defense attorney. I think we could make you a very attractive proposal. Would you care to stop by my office and discuss it?"

"Thank you, Mr. Browning. I'm really flattered, but I just moved into my own offices. I'm hoping it will work out."

He gave her a long look. "It will work out." He raised his eyes as someone approached and got to his feet and held out his hand. "Adam, how are you?"

Jennifer looked up and Adam Warner was standing there shaking hands with Lee Browning. Jennifer's heart began to beat faster and she could feel her face flush. Idiot schoolgirl!

Adam Warner looked at Jennifer and Browning and said, "You two know each other?"

"We were just beginning to get acquainted," Lee Browning said easily. "You arrived a little too soon."

"Or just in time." He took Jennifer's arm. "Better luck next time, Lee."

The captain came up to Adam. "Would you like your table now, Mr. Warner, or would you like to have a drink at the bar first?"

"We'll take a table, Henri."

When they had been seated, Jennifer looked around the room and recognized half a dozen celebrities.

"This place is like a Who's Who," she said.

Adam looked at her. "It is now."

Jennifer felt herself blush again. Stop it, you fool. She wondered how many other girls Adam Warner had brought here while his wife was sitting at home, waiting for him. She wondered if any of them ever learned that he was married, or whether he always managed to keep that a secret from them. Well, she had an advantage. You're going to be in for a surprise, Mr. Warner, Jennifer thought.

They ordered drinks and dinner and busied themselves making small talk. Jennifer let Adam do most of the talking. He was witty and charming, but she was armored against his charm. It was not easy. She found herself smiling at his anecdotes, laughing at his stories.

It won't do him any good, Jennifer told herself. She was not looking for a fling. The specter of her mother haunted her. There was a deep passion within Jennifer that she was afraid to explore, afraid to release.

They were having dessert and Adam still had not said one word that could be misconstrued. Jennifer had been building up her defenses for nothing, fending off an attack that had never materialized, and she felt like a fool. She wondered what Adam would have said if he had known what she had been thinking all evening. Jennifer smiled at her own vanity.

"I never got a chance to thank you for the clients you sent me," Jennifer said. "I did telephone you a few times, but - "

"I know." Adam hesitated, then added awkwardly, "I didn't want to return your phone calls." Jennifer looked at him in surprise. "I was afraid to," he said simply.

And there it was. He had taken her by surprise, caught her off guard, but his meaning was unmistakable. Jennifer knew what was coming next. And she did not want him to say it. She did not want him to be like all the others, the married men who pretended they were single. She despised them and she did not want to despise this man.

Adam said quietly, "Jennifer, I want you to know I'm married." She sat there staring at him, her mouth open.

"I'm sorry. I should have told you sooner." He smiled wryly. "Well, there really was no sooner, was there?"

Jennifer was filled with a strange confusion. "Why - why did you ask me to dinner, Adam?"

"Because I had to see you again."

Everything began to seem unreal to Jennifer. It was as though she were being pulled under by some giant tidal wave. She sat there listening to Adam saying all the things he felt, and she knew that every word was true. She knew because she felt the same way. She wanted him to stop before he said too much. She wanted him to go on and say more.

"I hope I'm not offending you," Adam said.

There was a sudden shyness about him that shook Jennifer.

"Adam, I - I - "

He looked at her and even though they had not touched, it was as if she were in his arms.

Jennifer said shakily, "Tell me about your wife."

"Mary Beth and I have been married fifteen years. We have no children."

"I see."

"She - we decided not to have any. We were both very young when we got married. I had known her a long time. Our families were neighbors at a summer place we had in Maine. When she was eighteen, her parents were killed in a plane crash. Mary Beth was almost insane with grief. She was all alone. I - we got married."

He married her out of pity and he's too much of a gentleman to say so, Jennifer thought.

"She's a wonderful woman. We've always had a very good relationship."

He was telling Jennifer more than she wanted to know, more than she could handle. Every instinct in her warned her to get away, to flee. In the past she had easily been able to cope with the married men who had tried to become involved with her, but Jennifer knew instinctively that this was different. If she ever let herself fall in love with this man, there would be no way out. She would have to be insane ever to begin anything with him.

Jennifer spoke carefully. "Adam, I like you very much. I don't get involved with married men."

He smiled, and his eyes behind the glasses held honesty and warmth. "I'm not looking for a backstreet affair. I enjoy being with you. I'm very proud of you. I'd like us to see each other once in a while."

Jennifer started to say, What good would that do? but the words came out, "That would be good."

So we'll have lunch once a month, Jennifer thought. It can't hurt anything.

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