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Authors: Barbara Delinsky

More Than Friends

BOOK: More Than Friends
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MORE THAN FRIENDS

by

Barbara Delinsky

By the author

of A Woman Betrayed.

MORE THAN FRIENDS

BARBARA DELINSKY

Harper Paperbacks

A Division of HarperCollins Publish

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book." This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Harper Paperbacks A Division of HarperCollins Publishers 10 East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022

Copyright 1993 by Barbara Delinsky

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Publish 10 East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022.

Cover illustration by Herman Estevez

First printing: April 1993

Printed in the United States of America

Harper Paperbacks and colophon are trademarks of HarperCollins Publish

<* 10 98765432

For inspiration, encouragement, patience, and love forever thanks to the men in my life.

prologue.

MiCHAEL MAXWELL RAISED THE CAMCORDER to his eye and, bracing his body against the porch railing, let the tape roll. He panned the ocean scape appreciatively, then eased his lens up the rocky beach path to the house.

Pushing his thirteen-year-old voice an octave lower than normal, he began, "Labor Day 1992. Sutters Island, Maine. With me on the front porch of the Popewell summer place are the Popes and Maxwells themselves, gathered on this momentous afternoon for their tenth annual end-of-the-season cookout."

"Tenth," came an astonished echo from the porch swing behind him. "Can you believe it?"

"Hard to," came another voice, a male one this time, and then a second, preceded by a grunt.

"I can believe it. I just saw estimates for a new roof, a new water heater, and a new septic tank. The place is falling apart."

"But we love it," Annie Pope declared. "Right, Teke?"

"Right," Teke said with a wink for Michael as his camera's eye joined the group.

Focusing on the large wooden swing, Michael

resumed his deep-voiced narrative. "Here are the Popewell parents. Left to right, there's J. D. Maxwell, with an arm stretched behind his best friend, Sam Pope. Sam's wife, Annie, is on Sam's lap with her arms around her knees and her bare feet tucked against her best friend, Teke. They are wearing an assortment of T-shirts and shorts, and look preppie, in an older kind of way."

"Hey," Teke protested.

"We are older," J.D. stated. When Sam shot him a look, he added, "I don't see you jumping up to dry dock the Whaler."

"Jon said he'd do it."

"Because you're beat."

"That was a cord of wood we chopped this morning!"

"Ten years ago we'd have chopped the wood and kept on going."

"Ten years ago we didn't have five teenagers to help do the rest." Teke sighed. "Ten years ago we were thirty. Face it, Sam, we're aging."

"Not me," Sam said. With the twitch of his mustache, he wrapped his arms around Annie. "I'm just entering the prime of my life. Right, sunshine?" He opened his mouth on the lobe of her ear and sucked it in.

"Sweet move, Sam," Michael remarked. He wondered what Kari Stevens would do if he tried that. Probably call him a pervert. But what did Kari Stevens know about tongues?

"He sees everything," J.D. warned Sam. "If he turns into a Geraldo with women, I'm blaming you."

"Gemldo," came an amused cry from the corner of the porch. Michael swung the camcorder that way and caught his sister Jana laughing,

"We'll never be another Geraldo."

"Why not?" Michael asked, vaguely hurt. True, he was more a cinematographer than an investigative reporter, but he had every intention of making it big.

Zoe Pope, who was huddled in the corner with Jana, said, "Because you're too nice."

"Oh, I can be mean." Zooming in for a tight shot, he crept toward the girls. "I can tell the world that Jana Maxwell skipped out on three driver's ed classes after she signed in."

"Michael!"

"Did you do that, Jana?" Teke called over.

But Michael had more and better. "I can tell Josh Vacarro that the reason the phone line is busy all night isn't because Jana's talking with Zoe, but because she's talking with Danny Stocklan and Doug Smith."

"You wouldn't," Jana warned.

"Of course he wouldn't," Zoe assured her. She was a calming force for Jana, as Annie was for Teke. She looked like her mother, too, had Annie's delicate look and the same short, blond, wavy hair, while Jana was dark-haired and as exotic-looking as Teke.

Sam snapped his fingers. "Get over here, Michael." Michael drew in the zoom and swung smoothly to the parents. "Snitching on sisters is right up there with swearing at the jump. Real men don't do it. Got that?"

"Got it," Michael said because Sam was too good a friend to argue with. It wasn't every kid who had a Sam in his life. He was like a father without the edge. Besides, he was an awesome athlete. Michael wouldn't be half the basketball player he was without Sam as his coach.

But basketball was for fall and the mainland, not for Labor Day on Sutters Island. "When are we playing volleyball?" he asked Sam from behind the camcorder.

"When I recoup some energy."

J.D. checked his watch. "By the time you do that, it'll be time to leave. I arranged for the barge to pick us up at five. Before that, we have to cook and clean--"

"The chicken!" Annie gasped. "I forgot! It's marinating --if I don't precook it--" She started to get up, only to be stopped both by Sam, who tightened his hold on her, and by Teke, who put a hand on her arm and rose from the swing.

"I'll take care of it. You stay with Sam."

"Sam, let me go. I swore to myself I'd help. Teke has spent the better part of the week cooking, and that's not fair. It's her vacation, too."

But Sam's arms weren't opening, and Teke wore a confident smile. "This is what I do best," she said. The screen door squeaked open and slapped shut.

Michael held the shot of the doorway until Teke disappeared from view. He liked filming his mother. She was unusual; her T-shirt and shorts were neon green, her hair was caught at the top of her head with a purple ribbon that matched the funky zigzags dangling from her ears. Of all his friends' mothers, she was the best, and it wasn't just that she was around. Or that she was a great cook. She was also fun. He went baritone again. "And there you have it, Theodora Maxwell taking charge. Feeding the hungry, nursing the sick, rushing to the ends of the earth for poster board, zit cream, and black spandex shorts. Tell me, Annie," he asked because it was a question Annie always tossed out herself, "what would we have done without her all these years?"

Annie gave the video cam a guileless smile. "I would never have become a tenured professor, and you would never have been born." Sam looked at J.D. "How's that for a tribute to your wife?"

"Not bad," J.D. said, rising from the swing. He went to the porch railing and looked down the gentle slope toward the dock. "Hey, you guys! You have to help us close up!"

Joining him, Michael trained the camcorder on Jonathan and Leigh, who were at the far end of the dock. Leigh was stretched out on the weathered planks in a bikini, catching the last of the rays. Jon was tight by her hip, with his back to the house. Zooming in, Michael captured the movement of a hand.

In his deep-voiced drawl he said, "This is quite a day for the Pope men, what with Sam's tongue in Annie's ear and Jon's hand in Leigh's bra. It's a good thing there aren't any kids around. They'd be shocked."

"Good God, Jon," J.D. hollered toward the dock, "that's my daughter you're touching! Use some discretion!"

Jana's laugh came from the corner. "They're using discretion." J.D. shot a look at Sam. "What's your son doing out there?" Sam had stretched out with Annie on the swing. "Relax, J.D. They're okay."

"Have you talked with him lately?"

"He's not doing anything you weren't doing at his age."

"I did nothing at his age."

Michael stopped filming. "Nothing? At seventeen?"

"I kissed girls," J.D. informed him.

"That's it?"

"That's it."

"Oh."

"What does job' mean?"

It meant that Michael couldn't imagine spending the next four years just kissing. Not that he planned on losing his virginity immediately. But he was beginning to wonder what it would be like to touch a girl, and not on the hand.

"What does job' mean?" J.D. repeated.

"Nothing." Michael raised the camcorder to his eye, pressed the record button, and told the tape, "Jonathan Pope has reformed. His hands are now on the dock in clear sight." His voice jumped. "Oh wow, look at that boat, Dad." He centered the viewfinder on a schooner that had entered his line of vision. "It's a four-master. Wow."

"Not bad."

"It's awesome."

"It won't be so awesome if the seas whip up. It'll be pretty unpleasant. We, on the other hand, will be safe and comfortable."

"But we can't go places like they can."

"The Whaler goes places."

"Not like a schooner would."

"The Whaler is more reliable."

"It's pathetic," Michael informed him. "You can't go anywhere good in a Whaler. I want to travel." Cinematographers couldn't make names for themselves limiting their filming to Sutlers Island, or Constance-on-the-Rise, where the Popewells lived, or Boston, where J.D. and Sam worked. They couldn't make names for themselves filming family events, or school plays, or--and he didn't care if he had won an award for it--documentaries on a day in the life of a dime. Michael wanted to do important stuff. He planned to circle the globe before he was twenty.

"So look into international law," J.D. advised. "It's a growing field. You'll be able to travel while you work."

"I'm not going into law," Michael said.

"Why not?" J.D. demanded.

Michael kept filming the schooner, which was one of the most awesome he'd seen. "I'd be bored."

"I'm not bored."

"You're not me."

"Is Sam bored?"

"Sam's not me." Michael had to admit that Sam's work--litigation, to J.D."s corporate and estate law--was more exciting. Still, Michael couldn't see himself in an office from eight in the morning until eight at night.

"Your grandfather is counting on having three generations of Maxwells in the firm," J.D. said.

"Fine. Let Jana be a lawyer. She was born to be one." J.D. was silent. In time Michael felt his gaze. There was puzzlement in his voice when he asked, "What do you see out there?"

"Sky. Sea. A boat." Michael paused. "New things. Different things. Our lives are too predictable."

"That's your age talking. You're too young to know the value of stability."

"I want adventure."

"Definitely your age talking."

Michael said nothing. If there was one thing he knew about his father, it was that J.D. wasn't changing his mind, which was okay, because Michael had Teke on his side. Teke would stand behind whatever he wanted to do. She was cool. She was his pal. Given what he'd seen of his friends' mothers, he thanked his lucky stars he had her. One

FLIPPING THE LAST PAGE OF THE DECISION HE

had been reading, Sam Pope rose from his chair, took a deep, satisfied breath, and let it out in a sigh of intense pleasure. He twitched his mustache enroute to a smile. The smile broadened. He straightened his shoulders, felt his chest fill with excitement. Unable to contain himself, he growled an exuberant, "Way to go, Sam," and strode out the door.

"We did it, Joy," he said without breaking stride. His secretary's eyes lit. "That explains the media." Even as she held out pink slips for the phone calls Sam had refused to take while he was reading the decision, her phone buzzed again.

But Sam was off, heading down the hall. There was a spring in his step. He felt on top of the world. He passed office after office but didn't slow until he reached the one at the very end. He wanted J.D. to be the first of his partners to hear the news. John David Maxwell was his oldest and closest friend.

The office was empty.

"He's at Continental Life in Springfield for the day," his secretary called from her station.

Sam felt a moment's disappointment, but it was gone in a flash. He was too elated to be weighed down for long. "When he calls in, tell him we won

Dunn v. Hanover."

The secretary grinned. "He'll be thrilled. What a victory."

"Yeah," Sam said, and tossed his chin toward yet another corridor. At its far end was a large corner office with generous views of the State House, the Boston Common, and the Public Garden. It was the office of the founder of the firm, the senior Maxwell. "Is John Stewart around?"

BOOK: More Than Friends
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