Chapter One

Fourth of July

Perry Adams wasn’t always a nice man. It didn’t change the fact that Deanna loved him. He was her husband, and if he was a difficult man to live with, that she made the effort only went to prove her love.

Now was one of those not-so-nice times. They sat at a banquet table in a courtyard at one more interminable company function, and in between bouts of Perry schmoozing the top brass, he and Christian Foster dissected their colleagues, searching for weaknesses or scandals to exploit.

Not, thought Deanna a little cynically, that Christian Foster would ever be so crass or so careless as to conduct such dissections in a way that could later be deemed overly critical. It wasn’t that he was a cruel or devious man – in fact, if he were, Deanna would never have allowed Perry to name him as godfather to their children. But Christian seemed indifferent to everyone around him, including Deanna, and the only time she saw him truly animated and personally connected was with her children.

“Rupert Benton left his wife last week,” Perry was saying to Christian, who lounged negligently in his chair and ignored the attempts of his dinner companion to garner even a second of his attention.

“That’s too bad,” Deanna remarked.

“Hardly.” Perry laughed. “She’s a foul woman. Divorcing her is probably the best thing he can do for his career.”

Deanna frowned. She had met the woman in question at several social functions, not the least of which was Perry’s and her own annual Christmas dinner party. She hadn’t seemed so much foul as she had seemed extraordinarily unhappy. Perry’s sole concern seemed to be for Rupert’s career, not for Margaret’s – or was it Margo’s? – well-being.

“Sometimes the wrong choice of spouse can hold one back.” The woman sitting between Christian and Deanna tapped one long, blood-red acrylic nail against the rim of her wine glass, evidently hoping to make it ring. But while this was a formal, catered company event, the caterers weren’t stupid enough to trust crystal to a bunch of drunken businessmen.

Perry beamed an approving smile at her, and she flushed but seemed pleased that she had captured someone’s attention. She darted a look at Deanna, who offered a tiny shrug of exasperation in reply. Her name was Sheila Harding, and she was an administrative assistant in Perry and Christian’s office. She and Deanna had spent hours in Deanna’s dressing room, preparing for this banquet. Christian had reluctantly agreed to stand in as Sheila’s escort – reluctantly because Sheila had gone into Deanna’s dressing room plain and fashion-bankrupt.

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