Chapter Twenty-Three

It was the end of October, two weeks before the election, and the senatorial race was in full swing. Adam was running against the incumbent Senator John Trowbridge, a veteran politician, and the experts agreed it was going to be a close battle.

Jennifer sat at home one night, watching Adam and his opponent in a television debate. Mary Beth had been right. A divorce now could easily have wrecked Adam's growing chances for victory.

When Jennifer walked into the office after a long business lunch, there was an urgent message for her to call Rick Arlen.

"He's called three times in the last half-hour," Cynthia said.

Rick Arlen was a rock star who had, almost overnight, become the hottest singer in the world. Jennifer had heard about the enormous incomes of rock stars, but until she got involved with Rick Arlen's affairs, she had had no idea what that really meant. From records, personal appearances, merchandising and now motion pictures, Rick Arlen's income was more than fifteen million dollars a year. Rick was twenty-five years old, an Alabama farm boy who had been born with a gold mine in his throat.

"Get him for me," Jennifer said.

Five minutes later he was on the line. "Hey, man, I've been tryin' to reach you for hours."

"Sorry, Rick. I was in a meeting."

"Problem. Gotta see you."

"Can you come in to the office this afternoon?"

"I don't think so. I'm in Monte Carlo, doin' a benefit for Grace and the Prince. How soon can you get here?"

"I couldn't possibly get away now," Jennifer protested. "I have a desk piled up - "

"Baby, I need you. You've got to get on a bird this afternoon."

And he hung up.

Jennifer thought about the phone call. Rick Arlen had not wanted to discuss his problem over the telephone. It could be anything from drugs to girls to boys. She thought about sending Ted Harris or Dan Martin to solve whatever the problem was, but she liked Rick Arlen. In the end, Jennifer decided to go herself.

She tried to reach Adam before she left, but he was out of the office.

She said to Cynthia, "Get me reservations on an Air France flight to Nice. I'll want a car to meet me and drive me to Monte Carlo."

Twenty minutes later she had a reservation on a seven o'clock flight that evening.

"There's a helicopter service from Nice directly to Monte Carlo," Cynthia said. "I've booked you on that."

"Wonderful. Thank you."

When Ken Bailey heard why Jennifer was leaving, he said, "Who does that punk think he is?"

"He knows who he is, Ken. He's one of our biggest clients."

"When will you be back?"

"I shouldn't be gone more than three or four days."

"Things aren't the same when you're not here. I'll miss you."

Jennifer wondered whether he was still seeing the young blond man.

"Hold down the fort until I get back."

As a rule, Jennifer enjoyed flying. She regarded her time in the air as freedom from pressures, a temporary escape from all the problems that beset her on the ground, a quiet oasis in space away from her endlessly demanding clients. This flight across the Atlantic, however, was unpleasant. It seemed unusually bumpy, and Jennifer's stomach became queasy and upset.

She was feeling a bit better by the time the plane landed in Nice the next morning. There was a helicopter waiting to fly her to Monte Carlo. Jennifer had never ridden in a helicopter before and she had looked forward to it. But the sudden lift and the swooping motions made her ill again, and she was unable to enjoy the majestic sights of the Alps below and the Grande Corniche, with miniature automobiles winding up the steep mountainside.

The buildings of Monte Carlo appeared, and a few minutes later the helicopter was landing in front of the modern white summer casino on the beach.

Cynthia had telephoned ahead and Rick Arlen was there to meet Jennifer.

He gave her a big hug. "How was the trip?"

"A little rough."

He took a closer look at her and said, "You don't look so hot. I'll take you up to my pad and you can rest up for the big do tonight."

"What big do?"

"The gala. That's why you're here."

"What?"

"Yeah. Grace asked me to invite anyone I liked. I like you."

"Oh, Rick!"

Jennifer could cheerfully have strangled him. He had no idea how much he had disrupted her life. She was three thousand miles away from Adam, she had clients who needed her, court cases to try - and she had been lured to Monte Carlo to attend a party!

Jennifer said, "Rick, how could - ?"

She looked at his beaming face and started to laugh.

Oh, well, she was here. Besides, the gala might turn out to be fun.

The gala was spectacular. It was a milk fund concert for orphans, sponsored by Their Serene Highnesses, Grace and Rainier Grimaldi, and it was held outdoors at the summer casino. It was a lovely evening. The night was balmy and the slight breeze coming off the Mediterranean stirred the tall palm trees. Jennifer wished Adam could have been here to share it with her. There were fifteen hundred seats occupied by a cheering audience.

Half a dozen international stars performed, but Rick Arlen was the headliner. He was backed up by a raucous three-piece band and flashing psychedelic lights that stained the velvet sky. When he finished, he received a standing ovation.

There was a private party afterward at the piscine, below the Hotel de Paris. Cocktails and a buffet supper were served around the enormous pool, in which dozens of lighted candles floated on lily pads.

Jennifer estimated that there were more than three hundred people there. Jennifer had not brought an evening gown, and just looking at the splendidly dressed women made her feel like the poor little match girl. Rick introduced her to dukes and duchesses and princesses. It seemed to Jennifer that half the royalty of Europe was there. She met heads of cartels and famous opera singers. There were fashion designers and heiresses and the great soccer player, Pele. Jennifer was in the midst of a conversation with two Swiss bankers when a wave of dizziness engulfed her.

"Excuse me," Jennifer said.

She went to find Rick Arlen. "Rick, I - "

He took one look at her and said, "You're white as a sheet, baby. Let's split."

Thirty minutes later, Jennifer was in bed in the villa that Rick Arlen had rented.

"A doctor's on his way," Rick told her.

"I don't need a doctor. It's just a virus or something."

"Right. It's the 'or something' he's gonna check out."

Dr. Andre Monteux was an elderly wisp of a man somewhere in his eighties. He wore a neatly trimmed full beard and carried a black medical case.

The doctor turned to Rick Arlen. "If you would leave us alone, please."

"Sure. I'll wait outside."

The doctor moved closer to the bed. "Alors. What have we here?"

"If I knew that," Jennifer said weakly, "I'd be making this house call and you'd be lying here."

He sat down on the edge of the bed. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I've come down with the bubonic plague."

"Put out your tongue, please."

Jennifer put out her tongue and began to gag. Dr. Monteux checked her pulse and took her temperature.

When he had finished, Jennifer asked, "What do you think it is, Doctor?"

"It could be any one of a number of things, beautiful lady. If you are feeling well enough tomorrow, I would like you to come to my office where I can do a thorough examination."

Jennifer felt too ill to argue. "All right," she said. "I'll be there."

In the morning Rick Arlen drove Jennifer into Monte Carlo where Dr. Monteux gave her a complete examination.

"It's a bug of some kind, isn't it?" Jennifer asked.

"If you wish a prediction," the elderly doctor replied, "I will send out for fortune cookies. If you wish to know what is wrong with you, we will have to be patient until the laboratory reports come back."

"When will that be?"

"It usually takes two or three days."

Jennifer knew there was no way she was going to stay there for two or three days. Adam might need her. She knew she needed him.

"In the meantime, I would like you to stay in bed and rest." He handed her a bottle of pills. "These will relax you."

"Thank you." Jennifer scribbled something on a piece of paper. "You can call me here."

It was not until Jennifer had gone that Dr. Monteux looked at the piece of paper. On it was written a New York telephone number.

At the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, where she changed planes, Jennifer took two of the pills Dr. Monteaux had given her and a sleeping pill. She slept fitfully during most of the trip back to New York, but when she disembarked from the plane she was feeling no better. She had not arranged for anyone to meet her and she took a taxi to her apartment.

In the late afternoon, the telephone rang. It was Adam.

"Jennifer! Where have you - "

She tried to put energy into her voice. "I'm sorry, darling. I had to go to Monte Carlo to see a client and I couldn't reach you."

"I've been worried sick. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. I - I've just been running around a lot."

"My God! I was imagining all kinds of terrible things."

"There's nothing to worry about," Jennifer assured him. "How's everything going with the campaign?"

"Fine. When am I going to see you? I was supposed to leave for Washington, but I can postpone - "

"No, you go ahead," Jennifer said. She did not want Adam to see her like this. "I'll be busy. We'll spend the weekend together."

"All right." His tone was reluctant. "If you're not doing anything at eleven, I'm on the CBS news."

"I'll watch, darling."

Jennifer was asleep five minutes after she had replaced the receiver.

In the morning Jennifer telephoned Cynthia to tell her she was not coming into the office. Jennifer had slept rest-lessly, and when she awakened she felt no better. She tried to eat breakfast but could not keep anything down. She felt weak and realized she had had nothing to eat for almost three days.

Her mind unwillingly went over the frightening litany of things that could be wrong with her. Cancer first, naturally. She felt for lumps in her breast, but she could not feel anything amiss. Of course, cancer could strike anywhere. It could be a virus of some kind, but the doctor surely would have known that immediately. The trouble was that it could be almost anything. Jennifer felt lost and helpless. She was not a hypochondriac, she had always been in wonderful health, and now she felt as though her body had somehow betrayed her. She could not bear it if anything happened to her. Not when everything was so wonderful.

She was going to be fine. Of course she was.

Another wave of nausea swept through her.

At eleven o'clock that morning, Dr. Andre Monteux called from Monte Carlo. A voice said, "Just a moment. I'll put the doctor on."

The moment stretched into a hundred years, and Jennifer clutched the telephone tightly, unable to bear the waiting.

Finally, Dr. Monteux's voice came on and he said, "How are you feeling?"

"About the same," Jennifer replied nervously. "Are the results of the tests in?"

"Good news," Dr. Monteux said. "It is not the bubonic plague."

Jennifer could stand no more. "What is it? What's the matter with me?"

"You are going to have a baby, Mrs. Parker."

Jennifer sat there numbly staring at the telephone. When she found her voice again she asked, "Are - are you sure?"

"Rabbits never lie. I take it this is your first baby."

"Yes."

"I would suggest you see an obstetrician as soon as possible. From the severity of the early symptoms, there may be some difficulties ahead for you."

"I will," Jennifer replied. "Thank you for calling, Dr. Monteux."

She replaced the receiver and sat there, her mind in a turmoil. She was not sure when it could have happened, or what her feelings were. She could not think straight.

She was going to have Adam's baby. And suddenly Jennifer knew how she felt. She felt wonderful; she felt as though she had been given some indescribably precious gift.

The timing was perfect, as though the gods were on their side. The election would soon be over and she and Adam would be married as quickly as possible. It would be a boy. Jennifer knew it. She could not wait to tell Adam.

She telephoned him at his office.

"Mr. Warner is not in," his secretary informed her. "You might try his home."

Jennifer was reluctant to call Adam at home, but she was bursting with her news. She dialed his number. Mary Beth answered.

"I'm sorry to bother you," Jennifer apologized. "There's something I have to talk to Adam about. This is Jennifer Parker."

"I'm pleased that you called," Mary Beth said. The warmth in her voice was reassuring. "Adam had some speaking engagements, but he's returning tonight. Why don't you come up to the house? We can all have dinner together. Say, seven o'clock?"

Jennifer hesitated for a moment. "That will be lovely."

It was a miracle that Jennifer did not have an accident driving to Croton-on-Hudson. Her mind was far away, dreaming of the future. She and Adam had often discussed having children. She could remember his words. I want a couple that look exactly like you.

As Jennifer drove along the highway, she thought she could feel a slight stirring in her womb, but she told herself that that was nonsense. It was much too early. But it would not be long now. Adam's baby was in her. It was alive and would soon be kicking. It was awesome, overwhelming. She -

Jennifer heard someone honking at her, and she looked up and saw that she had almost forced a truck driver off the road. She gave him an apologetic smile and drove on. Nothing could spoil this day.

It was dusk when Jennifer pulled up in front of the Warner house. A fine snow was beginning to fall, lightly powdering the trees. Mary Beth, wearing a long blue brocade gown, opened the front door to greet Jennifer, taking her arm and warmly welcoming her into the house, reminding Jennifer of the first time they had met.

Mary Beth looked radiantly happy. She was full of small talk, putting her visitor at ease. They went into the library where there was a cheerful fire crackling in the hearth.

"I haven't heard from Adam yet," Mary Beth said. "He's probably been detained. In the meantime, you and I can have a nice long chat. You sounded excited on the telephone." Mary Beth leaned forward conspiratorially. "What's your big news?"

Jennifer looked at the friendly woman across from her and blurted out, "I'm going to have Adam's baby."

Mary Beth leaned back in her chair and smiled. "Well! Now isn't that something! So am I!"

Jennifer stared at her. "I - I don't understand."

Mary Beth laughed. "It's really quite simple, my dear. Adam and I are married, you know."

Jennifer said slowly, "But - but you and Adam are getting a divorce."

"My dear girl, why on earth would I divorce Adam? I adore him."

Jennifer felt her head beginning to spin. The conversation was making no sense. "You're - you're in love with someone else. You said you - "

"I said that I'm in love. And I am. I'm in love with Adam. I told you, I've been in love with Adam since the first time I saw him."

She could not mean what she was saying. She was teasing Jennifer, playing some kind of silly game.

"Stop it!" Jennifer said. "You're like a brother and sister to each other. Adam doesn't make love to - "

Mary Beth's voice tinkled with laughter. "My poor dear! I'm surprised that someone as clever as you are could - " She leaned forward with concern. "You believed him! I'm so sorry. I am. I really am."

Jennifer was fighting to keep control of herself. "Adam is in love with me. We're getting married."

Mary Beth shook her head. Her blue eyes met Jennifer's and the naked hatred in them made Jennifer's heart stop for an instant.

"That would make Adam a bigamist. I'll never give him a divorce. If I had let Adam divorce me and marry you, he would lose the election. As it is, he's going to win it. Then we'll go on to the White House, Adam and I. There's no room in his life for anyone like you. There never was. He only thinks he's in love with you. But he'll get over that when he finds out I'm carrying his baby. Adam's always wanted a child."

Jennifer squeezed her eyes shut, trying to stop the terrible pain in her head.

"Can I get you something?" Mary Beth was asking solicitously.

Jennifer opened her eyes. "Have you told him you're having a baby?"

"Not yet." Mary Beth smiled. "I thought I'd tell him tonight when he gets home and we're in bed."

Jennifer was filled with loathing. "You're a monster..."

"It's all in the point of view, isn't it, honey? I'm Adam's wife. You're his whore."

Jennifer rose to her feet, feeling dizzy. Her headache had become an unbearable pounding. There was a roaring in her ears and she was afraid she was going to faint. She was moving toward the entrance, her legs unsteady.

Jennifer stopped at the door, pressing herself against it, trying to think. Adam had said he loved her, but he had slept with this woman, had made her pregnant.

Jennifer turned and walked out into the cold night air.

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