Authors: Julie Garwood
The Lion’s Lady
For the Roses
The Claybor ne Brides
Come the Spring
For Sharon Felice Murphy, the bravest person I know,
for Elena O’Shea Nordstrom, my friend forever
Today we celebrate. The foundation has finally approved the grant money to fund our study. There are four of us, all with doctorates, but we’re acting like irresponsible teenagers laughing and carrying on. Later, we’ll probably get as drunk as dropouts. We’ve worked hard to get here.
Our backgrounds are quite diverse. Kirk has come to us from St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he did extensive work with gray wolves in Camp Ripley. His expertise with the wolf pack’s family dynamic will be invaluable to us.
Eric comes from the prestigious TNI research facility in Chicago. He is the youngest but has the most degrees. He calls himself a lab rat, as he has been isolated in the lab doing extensive research on two projects funded by the Kenton Pharmaceutical Company. He’s a biologist and a chemist, and I think his background in immunology will compliment the other studies.
Brandon, our director, has been in North Dakota for eleven years. He observed and documented wolves traveling more than two thousand miles. He would like to put tracking devices, radio-controlled collars, on two separate pairs of alpha males and females so that we can record their movements. His focus is on behavioral habits.
I’m the only behavioral scientist here, but I’m a biologist as well. My personal quest is different from the others, but it’s my hope that there won’t be a conflict. We ’re all interested in the dynamic within the pack, but I’m also interested in the effects of stress on the individual … extreme stress.
POLAR BEAR DID HIM IN. THE BIGGEST DAMNED POLAR
bear anyone had ever seen in or around Prudhoe Bay in the last twenty-five years, or so it was reported.
Arrogance got him killed, though, and if William Emmett Harrington hadn’t been such a narcissist, he might still be alive. But he was a narcissist, and he was also a braggart.
The only topic of conversation William was interested in was William, and since he hadn’t accomplished much of anything significant in his twenty-eight years on earth, he was painfully boring.
William lived off his inheritance, a hefty trust fund set up by his grandfather, Henry Emmett Harrington, who must have had an inkling of the lazy-ass gene he was passing down, because his son, Morris Emmett Harrington, didn’t work a day in his life. And William happily followed in his father’s footsteps.
Like all the Harrington men before him, William was a handsome devil and knew it. He didn’t have any trouble getting women into his bed, but he could never lure any of them back for a repeat performance. No wonder. William treated sex like a race he had to
win in order to prove that he was the best, and because he really was a narcissist, he didn’t care about satisfying his partner. What
wanted was all that mattered.
His past conquests had come up with various nicknames for him. Pig was one. Quick Trip was another. But the one that was uttered most behind his back was The Minute Man. All the women who had gone to bed with him knew exactly what that meant.
Besides self-gratification, William’s other passion was running. He’d made it a full-time job because, as with sex, he was shockingly fast. In the past year he had accumulated twenty-four first-place prizes within a six-state area, and he was about to enter a 5K race in his hometown of Chicago to collect his twenty-fifth. Since he believed crossing the finish line first was going to be a momentous event that everyone in Chicago would want to read about, he called the
and suggested they do a feature article about him in the Sunday paper. Harrington also mentioned more than once how photogenic he was and how a full-color photo of him would enhance the article.
One of the local news editors at the
took the call and patiently listened to William’s pitch, then bounced him to one of the entertainment editors, who quickly bounced him to one of the sports columnists, who bounced him to one of the health and fitness editors, who wrote an entire article on the top-five allergens plaguing Chicago while he listened to the spiel. None of them was impressed or interested. The last editor to speak to William suggested that he give him a call back when he had ninety-nine wins under his belt and was going for one hundred.
William wasn’t discouraged. He immediately called the
Chicago Sun Times
and explained his idea for a story. He was rejected yet again.
William realized he was going to have to lower his expectations if he wanted to see his name in print, and so he contacted the
a small but popular neighborhood newspaper that focused primarily on local issues and entertainment.
The editor in chief, Herman Anthony Bitterman, was an antacid-popping seasoned veteran of the press with a pronounced Brooklyn accent. For thirty years he had been on the foreign desk of
The New York Times
and had garnered several prestigious honors including the RFK Journalism Award and the Polk Award, but when his good-for-nothing son-in-law ran off with another woman—his daughter’s yoga instructor, for the love of God—Herman retired from the
and moved with his wife, Marissa, to Chicago where she had grown up and where their daughter now lived with her four little girls.
A newsman at heart, Herman couldn’t stay retired long. When the opportunity presented itself, he took the job at the
as a distraction from boredom and an escape from the horde of meddling in-laws.
He liked Chicago. He’d gone to Northwestern University, where he’d met Marissa. After graduation, they had returned to his hometown, New York, so he could take a job at the
Coming back to Chicago after decades in New York was a real adjustment. He had lived in a cramped two-bedroom Manhattan apartment for so long that a two-story brownstone took some getting used to. His only real complaint was the lack of noise. He missed falling asleep to the soothing sounds of cars screeching, horns blaring, and sirens shrieking.
With so much quiet, even at the office, Herman found it difficult to get any work done. To compensate, he brought in an old television set from home, plopped it on top of his mini refrigerator, and left it on all day with the volume turned up.
When the call came in from William Harrington, Herman hit the mute button before picking up the phone. While he ate his lunch—an Italian sausage and green pepper sandwich drenched in ketchup and washed down with an icy cold Kelly’s Root Beer—he listened to Harrington pitch his story idea.
It took Bitterman all of half a minute to sum up William Harrington. The man was an egomaniac.
“Red, huh? You always wear red socks and a red T-shirt for every race. And white shorts. Yeah, that’s interesting. Even when you run in the winter? Still wear the shorts?”
His question encouraged Harrington to ramble more, allowing Bitterman time to finish his sandwich. He took a long swig of his root beer, then interrupted Harrington’s grandiose opinion of himself and said, “Yeah, sure. We’ll do the story. Why not?”
After scribbling down the particulars, Bitterman disconnected the call, then wadded up his brown lunch sack and tossed it into the trash can.
He crossed the office to get to the door—a no small feat considering nearly every inch of the room was filled with crates of Kelly’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer stacked halfway to the ceiling. Since his door wasn’t blocked, his office hadn’t been deemed a fire hazard, at least not yet. He was hoarding what was left of Kelly’s Root Beer because, in his estimation, it was the best damned root beer he had ever tasted, and when he’d heard the company had been forced to close its doors and was going out of business, he had done what any root beer addict would do and rushed out to buy as many bottles of the stuff as he could get his hands on.
“Blond Girl!” he shouted. “I’ve got another story for you. This one’s a humdinger.”
Sophie Summerfield Rose tried to ignore Bitterman’s bellow as she put the finishing touches on an article she was about to e-mail him.
“Hey, Sophie, I think Bitterman’s calling you.”
Gary Warner, a brute of a man and the office snitch, leaned over her cubicle. His smile reminded Sophie of a cartoon fox with his teeth bared. He looked a bit like a fox, too. His nose was long and pointy, and his complexion was as dull as his long straggly hair. Mullets had never really been in style, but Gary loved his and used so much hair spray on it, it looked starched.
“Since you’re the only female here today and since you’re the only blonde in the entire office, I’m pretty sure ‘Blond Girl’ means
you.” He had a good laugh over what he considered a hilarious observation.
Sophie didn’t respond. No matter how obnoxious Gary became, and he had cornered the market on obnoxious a long time ago, she refused to let him rile her. She carefully pushed her chair back so she wouldn’t hit the file cabinet again. It already had so many dents, it looked like someone had taken a baseball bat to it.
was housed in an old warehouse. It was a huge, gray stone building with gray cement floors, gray brick walls, and a dingy gray ceiling that Sophie suspected had once been white. The fluorescent lighting was nearly as old as the building. The presses were in the basement. Circulation and the other departments were on the first floor, and the editorial offices were on the second floor. It was a huge space, yet each gray-paneled cubicle, including hers, was the size of a refrigerator. A side-by-side, but still a refrigerator.
could have been a depressing place to work, but it wasn’t. Colorful posters hung above the gray file cabinets that lined the far wall, and each cubicle was brightly decorated. Some were more creative than others, but each gave a hint of the occupant’s personality.
Gary’s cubicle was decorated with half-eaten sandwiches and pastries, some at least a week old. He wouldn’t let the cleaning crew touch his desk, and Sophie didn’t think it had ever been cleared of the clutter. She wouldn’t have been surprised to find roaches skittering under all the garbage, but Gary probably wouldn’t have minded. He was most likely related to some of them.