Sample text for Now and forever / Danielle Steel.

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Chapter 1

The weather was magnificent.__A clear blue sunny day, with sharply etched white clouds in the sky.__The perfect Indian summer.__And so hot.__The heat made everything slow and sensual.__And it was so totally unlike San Francisco.__That was the best part.__Ian sat at a small pink marble table, his usual seat, in a patch of sunlight at Enrico's restaurant on Broadway.__The traffic whizzed by while lunch-hour couples strolled.__The heat felt delicious.

Under the table, Ian swung one long leg easily over the other.__Three daisies bobbed in a glass, and the bread was fresh and soft to the touch.__The almost too-thin, graceful fingers tore one slice of bread carefully away from the others.__Two young girls watched him and giggled.__He wasn't "cute," he was sexy.__Even they knew it.__And beautiful.__Handsome.__Elegant.__He had class. Tall, thin, blond.__blue-eyed, with high cheekbones and endless legs, hands that one noticed, a face one hated to stop looking at...a body one watched. Ian Clarke was a beautiful man.__ And he knew it, in an offhand sort of way. He knew it.__His wife knew it.__So what? She was beautiful too.__It wasn't something they really cared about.__But other people did.__Other people loved to watch them, in that hungry way one stares at exceptionally good-looking people, wanting to know what they're saying, where they're going, who they know, what they though some of it might rub off.__It never does.__One has to be born with it.__Or spend a great deal of money to fake it.__Ian didn't fake it.__He had it.

The woman in the large natural straw hat and pink dress had noticed it too. She stared at him through the mesh of the straw.__She watched his hands with the bread, his mouth as he drank.__She could even see the blond hair on his arms as he rolled up his sleeves in the sun.__She was several tables away, but she saw.__Just as she had seen him there before.__But he never saw her.__Why would he? She saw everything, and then she stopped watching.__Ian didn't know she was alive.__He was busy with the rest of the view.

Life was incredibly good.__Ripe and golden and easy.__His for the plucking.__He had worked on the third chapter of his novel all morning, and now the characters were coming to life, just like the people wandering along Broadway...strolling, laughing playing games.__His characters were already that real to him.__He knew them intimately.__He was their father, their creator, their friend.__And they were his friends.__It was such a good feeling, starting a book.__It populated his life.__All those new faces, new heads.__He could feel them in his hands as he rat-tat-tapped on the typewriter keys.__Even the keyboard felt good to his touch.

He had it all, a city he loved, a new novel at last, and a wife he still laughed and played with and loved making love to.__Seven years and everything about her still felt good to him: her laughter, her smile, the look in her eyes, the way she sat naked in his studio, perched in the old wicker rocking chair, drinking root beer and reading his work.__Everything felt good, and better now, with the novel beginning to blossom.__It was a magical day.__And Jessie was coming home.__It had been a productive three weeks, but he was suddenly lonely and horny as hell...Jessie.

Ian closed his eyes and blotted out the sounds of traffic drifting by...Jessie...of the graceful legs, the blond hair like fine satin, the green eyes with gold specks...eating peanut butter and apricot jam on raisin bread at two in the morning, asking him what he thought of the spring line for her shop..."I mean honestly, Ian, tell me the truth, do you hate the spring things, or are they okay? From a man's point of honest..."__As though it really mattered, from a man's point of view.__Those big green eyes searching his face as though asking him if she were okay, if he loved her, if...he did.

Sipping his gin and tonic, he thought of her, and felt indebted to her again. It gave him a tiny pinched feeling somewhere in the pit of his stomach.__But that was part of it: he did owe her a lot.__She had weathered a lot.__Teaching jobs that had paid him a pittance, substitute teaching that had paid less, a job in a bookstore, which she had hated because she felt it demeaned him.__So he had quit.__He had even had a brief fling with journalism, after his first novel had bombed.__And then her inheritance had solved so many of their problems.__Theirs, but not necessarily his.

"You know, Mrs. Clarke, one of these days you're going to get sick and tired of being married to a starving writer."__He had watched her face intently as she'd shaken her head and smiled in the sunlight of a summer day three years before...

"You don't look like you're starving to me."__She patted his stomach, and then kissed him gently on the lips.__"I love you, Ian."

"You must be crazy.__But I love you too."__It had been a rough summer for him. He hadn't made a dime in eight months.__But Jessie had her money, of course. Dammit.

"Why am I crazy? Because I respect your work? Because I think you're a good husband, even if you're not working on Madison Avenue anymore? So what, Ian? Who gives a damn about Madison Avenue? Do you? Do you miss it so much, or are you just going to use it to torment yourself for the rest of your life? There was a faint tinge of bitterness in her voice, mixed with anger.__"Why can't you just enjoy what you are?"

"And what's that?"

"A writer.__And a good one."

"Who says?"

"The critics 'says,' that's who says."

"My royalties don't says."

"Fuck your royalties." She looked so serious that he had to laugh.

"I'd have a tough time trying--they're not big enough to tickle, let alone fuck."

"Oh, shut up...creep...sometimes you make me so mad." A smile began to warm her face again and he leaned over and kissed her.__She ran a finger slowly up the inside of his thigh, watching him with that quiet smile of hers, and he tingled all over...

He still remembered it.__Perfectly.

"Evil woman, I adore you.__Come on, let's go home."__They had left the beach hand in hand, like two kids, sharing their own private smile.__They hadn't even waited until they'd gotten home.__A few miles later, Ian had spotted a narrow creek a little distance from the road, and they had parked there and made love under the trees, near the creek, with the summer sounds all around them.__He still remembered lying on the soft earth with her afterward, wearing only their shirts and letting their toes play with the pebbles and grass.__He still remembered thinking that he would never quite understand what bound her to him...why? And what bound him to her? The questions one never asks of marriage...why, for your money, darling, why else? No one in his right mind ever asked those questions.__But sometimes he was so tempted to.__He sometimes feared that what bound him to her was her faith in his writing.__He didn't want to think it was that, but that was certainly part of it.

All those nights of argument and coffee and wine in his studio.__She was always so goddam sure.__When he needed her to be.__That was the best part.

"I know you'll make it, Ian.__That's all.__I just know you will." So goddam sure.__That's why she had made him quit his job on Madison Avenue, because she was so sure.__Or was it because she'd wanted to make him dependent on her? Sometimes he wondered about that too.

"But how do you know, dammit? How can you possibly know I'll make it? It's a dream, Jessie.__A fantasy.__The great American novel.__Do you know how many absolute zeroes are out there writing crap, thinking 'this is it'?"

"Who gives a damn? That's not you."

"Maybe it is."__She had thrown a glass of wine at him once when he'd said that, and it made him laugh.__They had wound up making love on the fur rug while he dripped wine from his chin to her breasts and they laughed together.

It was all part of why he had to write a good one now.__Had to.__For her.__For himself.__He had to this time.__Six years of writing had produced one disastrous novel and one beautiful book of fables that the critics had hailed as a classic.__It had sold less than seven hundred copies.__The novel hadn't even done that "well." But this one was going to be different.__He knew it.__It was his brainchild against hers, Lady J.

Lady J was Jessie's boutique.__And Jessie had made it a smash.__The right touches, the right flair, the right line at the right time.__She was one of those people who cast a spell on whatever they touch.__A candle, a scarf, a jewel, a flash of color, a hint of a smile, a glow of warmth, a dash of pizzazz, a dollop of style.__A barrel of style.__Jessie had been born with it. She oozed it.__Stark naked and with her eyes closed, she had style.

Like the way she flew into his studio at lunchtime, her blond mane flying, a smile in her eyes, a kiss on his neck, and suddenly one fabulous salmon rose dropped across his papers.__One perfect rose, or one brilliant yellow tulip in a crystal vase next to his coffee cup, a few slices of prosciutto, some cantaloupe, a thin sliver of Brie...The New York Times...or Le Figaro.__She just had it.__A gift for transforming everything she touched into something more, something better.

Thinking of her made Ian smile again as he watched the people at the other tables.__If Jessie had been there she would have worn something faintly outrageous, a sundress that exposed her back by covered her arms, or something totally covered up but with a slit that gave passersby just the quickest flash of leg, or an unbearably beautiful hat that would only allow them to catch a glimpse of one striking green eye, while the other flirted, then hid.__Thinking of her like that drew his attention to the woman in the straw hat a few tables away.__He hadn't seen her before.__And he thought she was definitely worth seeing.__On a hot, sunny afternoon, with two gin and tonics under his belt.__He could barely see her face.__Only the point of her chin.

She had slender arms and pretty hands with no rings.__He watched her sip something frothy through a straw.__He felt a familiar stirring as he thought of his wife and watched the girl in the hat.__It was a damn shame Jessie wasn't home.__It was a day to go to the beach, and swim, and sweat, and get covered with sand, and rub your hands all over each other, oozing suntan oil.__The way the woman in the straw hat moved her mouth on the straw in her drink bothered him.__It made him want Jessie.__Now.

His cannelloni arrived, but it had been a poor choice.__Too creamy, too hot, and too much.__He should have ordered a salad.__And he was loath to order coffee after his few bites of lunch.__It was too easy a day to be hard on yourself.__It was so much easier just to let yourself go, or your mind, at least.__That was harmless.__He was having a good time.__He always did at Enrico's.__He could relax there, watch strangers, meet writers he knew, and admire the women.

For no reason in particular, he let the waiter bring him a third drink.__He rarely drank anything other than white wine, but the gin was cool and pleasant. And a third drink wouldn't kill him.__There was something about hot days in a usually cool went a bit mad.

The crowd at Enrico's ebbed and flowed, crowding the sidewalk for tables, shunning the red booths indoors.__Businessmen freed their necks of ties, models preened, artists scribbled, street musicians played, poets joked.__Even the traffic noises were dimmed by the music and the voices.__It reminded him of the last day of school.__And the topless bars were silent on either side of the restaurant, their neon doused until nightfall.__This was much better than neon. It was real.__It was young and alive and had the spice of a game.

The girl in the hat never revealed her face as Ian left, but she watched him, and then silently shrugged, and signaled for the check.__She could always come back, and maybe...what the hell...

Ian was thinking of her on his way to the car, slightly tipsy but not so much that it showed.__He was dreaming up verses to "Ode to a Faceless Beauty."__He laughed to himself as he slid behind the wheel of Jessie's car, wishing he were sliding into Jessie.__He was unbearably horny.

He was driving Jessie's little red Morgan.__And thoroughly enjoying it.__It had been a damn handsome gift, he reflected, as he pulled out the choke.__A damn handsome gift.__For a damn handsome woman.__He had bought it for her with his advance for the fables.__The whole check for the car.__Madness.__But she had adored it.__And he adored her.

He swung back onto Broadway and stopped at a light, passing Enrico's again on his way home, just as a whisper of pink brushed at his right eye.__The hat swirled on one finger now as her face looked up toward the sky, her behind undulating freely as she walked in high-heeled white sandals.__The pink dress tugged at her hips, but not blatantly, and her red hair framed her face in loose curls.__She looked pretty in pink, and so goddam sexy.__So round and so ripe and so young...twenty-two?...twenty-three? He felt the same hunger again in his loins as he watched her.__Her copper hair reflected the sun.__He wanted to touch it.__To tear the hat from her hand and run away to see if she'd follow him.__He wanted to play, and he had no one to play with.

He drove slowly past her, and she looked up, and then her face flushed and she looked away, as though she hadn't expected to see him again and now it changed everything.__She turned her head and looked at him again, the surprise replaced by a slow smile and a barely visible shrug.__Destiny.__Today had been the day after all.__She had dressed for it.__And now she was glad.__She seemed unwilling to go, under the heat of his gaze.__He hadn't driven on.__He simply sat there, while she stood at the corner and watched him.__She was not as young as he'd thought.__Twenty-six...twenty-seven? But still fresh.__Fresh enough, after three gin and tonics and not a great deal of food.

Her eyes searched his face, clawing a little, but carefully, and then, as he watched, she approached, showing the full bosom in sharp contrast to the girlish shape of her arms.

"Do I know you?" She stood holding her hat, one ankle suddenly crossing the other; it made her hipbones jut forward, and Ian's trousers were instantly too tight.

"No.__I don't think so."

"You've been staring."

"Yes...I'm sorry.__I...I liked your hat.__I noticed it at lunch." Her face eased and he returned her smile, disappointed, though.__She was older than Jessie, perhaps even a year or two older than he.__Made up to look exquisite at a thirty-foot distance, at twenty feet the illusion was shattered.__And the red hair showed a thin line of black roots.__But he had been staring, she was right.

"I'm really awfully sorry.__Do you need a lift?"__Why not? She couldn't be headed far off his path; probably to an office a few blocks away.

"Yeah, sure.__Thanks.__It's too hot to walk."__She smiled again, and struggled with the handle on the door.__Ian released it for her from within, and she pounced onto the seat, displaying a comforting amount of cleavage.__

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Authors -- Fiction.
False imprisonment -- Fiction.
San Francisco (Calif.) -- Fiction.