Authors: Barbara Delinsky
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 1990 by Barbara Delinsky
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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Novels by Barbara Delinsky
Heart of the Night*
Looking for Peyton Place
The Summer I Dared
Flirting with Pete
An Accidental Woman
The Woman Next Door
A Woman’s Place
Shades of Grace
For My Daughters
More Than Friends
The Passions of Chelsea Kane
A Woman Betrayed
Nonfiction by Barbara Delinsky
New York, March 1990
F ALL THE THINGS HE’D DONE
to her in the past, of all the things he hadn’t done or either might have or should have, his betrayal now was the cruelest. Hillary Cox stared at the television screen long after his image had faded. Her mind was nearly as blank, wiped clean by disbelief, shock, and pain.
Sweeping the long auburn waves from her face, she turned and stared at the carpet. But there were no answers to be found in the thick crimson pile.
Engaged? John was engaged?
She swallowed hard. The remote control fell from her thighs to the floor as she got up and wandered distractedly around the den. The room wasn’t large. Nor was the rest of her apartment, but it was the best she could afford on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which was where she wanted to live, where she wanted to be with John. She had rented it as much to satisfy her own pride as to suit him. He was a man of means. Someplace shabby would never have appealed to him.
If he’d given her money, she might have had a bigger place. But then she would have felt more like a whore than she did now.
Her step faltered. She hadn’t ever sold herself. Her feelings for John had always been deep, and whether they were of love, hate, respect, or contempt, she had been faithful to him for many years. She was no whore. A fool, perhaps. But not a whore.
She moved from the back of one chintz-covered chair to another, and then to the front of a simple cherrywood table she used as a desk. Her fingertips skimmed the papers and magazines strewn haphazardly on its top. She knew exactly what was where. John had never been able to understand that. In his mind, organization was crucial and neatness its prerequisite.
At the bookshelf she paused to touch the CD player he had given her the Christmas before, then the Steuben owl of a couple of Christmases earlier, then the framed picture she had taken of him several Christmases before that. He was a handsome devil, dark-haired and dark-eyed with features that were aristocratic enough to foil the occasional primitive look. She had seen him mature over the years, had watched his shoulders broaden, his five o’clock shadow thicken, his sideburns don a silver lining. Twenty-seven years was a long time to know a man, but she hadn’t counted until now. She’d just assumed there would be many years ahead for them.
A knot tightened inside her.
He couldn’t be engaged, she told herself. John wasn’t the marrying kind. He had reached fifty without speaking his vows, had attained extraordinary success without benefit of a wife. There was no earthly reason why he would choose to take one now—and John never did anything without reason.
Fallen in love? No, not John.
But he had said he was engaged. On nationwide television, he had said he was engaged.
Feeling a pang in the pit of her stomach, she turned from the imperious face in the picture and resumed her pacing. Moments later she found herself at the door of her bedroom, leaning weakly against the jamb, staring at the bed. It was carefully dressed in its white satin cover as it hadn’t been the weekend before. There had been no point in making it up then. She and John hadn’t left it for long.
Her breath came less evenly in the wake of memory. John was an incredible lover. He was demanding but rewarding, and if there were times when he was a little rough, she liked that, too. It was a change from the civilized veneer he showed the world. She took pride in sparking that roughness. It was a sign of power, proof that she did things for John that no other woman could.
On Sunday afternoon he had headed back to Boston,
home base. She hadn’t heard from him since, but that was his style. She had adapted to it over the years by making the best out of a situation she couldn’t change. John did what he wanted. He answered to no one.
It wasn’t possible.
Or was it?
She paced with growing agitation. She wouldn’t have thought twice if she had read of his engagement in the
. Lord knew the tabloid had announced the same before. But that had always been wild speculation, pairing him with women he hardly knew or could barely abide.
The interview on
was different. The show had credibility. So did Janet Curry. She was a mature, elegant woman, a fixture in Boston society, in her midforties, newly widowed and financially set. Hillary knew that John had dated her. He’d told her so. But he hadn’t mentioned an engagement—not when she’d seen him at the time of the show’s filming a month before, nor during last weekend.
As the meaning of that sank in, so did the hurt. If the engagement was for real, John had been making love to her well after he’d committed himself to Janet, which cheapened both their lovemaking and Hillary herself. Moreover, if he got married, there would be a steady woman by his side and in his bed. A steady, legitimate woman. And it wouldn’t be Hillary.
Fighting off a wave of panic, she crossed to the nightstand, picked up the phone, and hastily punched out Pam’s number. Pam would know the truth. After all, she was John’s sister. Surely he’d have shared such news with her.
Then again, he might not have. Hillary pressed the disconnect button. Although Pam was deeply involved in the family business, she and John weren’t close. It was no wonder. John was a bastard.
And who better to confirm his plans than the bastard himself. Punching out the number of John’s Beacon Hill townhouse, she waited through four long rings, growing more anxious with each.
“St. George residence.” There was noise in the background.
“Christian, this is Hillary Cox.” She spoke firmly, with as much authority as she could muster, given the probability that if she was a has-been in John’s life, his houseboy would know it. “Is John there?”
During the few seconds it took him to answer, she identified the background noise. There were people there. Their voices blended into a single, cacophonous drone. “He’s here, Miss Cox, but he’s occupied at the moment.” She heard a peal of laughter. “May I tell him you called?”
She had the disconcerting suspicion that there was a party going on. “Now,” she insisted. “Tell him I’m on the phone and that I’d like to talk with him now.”
“Perhaps it would be better—”
“Please, Christian. This is urgent.”
Some of her desperation must have reached him. After a brief pause, then a short directive, Christian put her on hold.
The sudden silence was worse for the voices she’d heard before. They haunted her, making her feel shut out, and while she’d felt excluded from John’s life many times in the past, this time was harder. It was one thing to be excluded when everyone else was, another thing to be shut out when others so clearly were not.
“Hillary?” His voice came as low and composed as ever. The background chatter was gone. She pictured him in the library, surrounded by walls of books he’d never read, his long lean fingers propped on the gleaming mahogany desk. He would have shut the door to ensure his privacy, a need that suddenly smacked of guilt.
“What’s going on, John?”
He seemed oblivious to the strained tone of her voice. “How are you?”
“Did you see the show?” He spoke slowly, deliberately.
“Of course. That’s what—”
“What did you think?”
“I don’t know. That’s why—”
“It wasn’t bad.” His tone smoothly countered the under statement. “Those shows can be poison. As charming as the interviewer may seem in person, once the filming is done and the editing begins, the brightest man can sound moronic.”
Hillary was losing what little composure she had. “John, what was—”
“I came across well, I think. I’m pleased.”
“So are a lot of other people, from the way it sounded when Christian answered the phone.” She hurried the words out before he cut her off again. “What’s going on?”
He was silent for a moment. “A few friends dropped in to celebrate.”
“They must have had great timing. The show hasn’t been over for fifteen minutes.” Which could mean only one thing. “They watched it with you, didn’t they?”
“Several. Three? Eight? Twenty?” She made no attempt to hide her hurt. “John, I’d have come too, if I’d known you were having a party. But I wasn’t invited. You didn’t want me there. You rarely do. And you won’t now.” She took a quick breath. “Is it true? Are you and Janet engaged?”
He hesitated. “I’ll call you back later, Hillary.”
“No. Now. Are you engaged?” He didn’t answer. “Are you marrying her?” Still there was no response. “Tell me, John.”
“We’ll discuss it later.”
“I have to know now. It was bad enough hearing it on television. How could you do that to me?” she cried. Once the pain started tearing from her, it wouldn’t stop. “How could you do it like that? After all the years, all the time we’ve been together, how could you let me find out along with millions of other people? Didn’t you think I’d be hurt?”