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Authors: Heather Graham

Handful of Dreams

BOOK: Handful of Dreams
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Handful of Dreams
Heather Graham

For my cousin, Gene Fowler, and my aunt, Christine Ventresca, with lots of love

Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Epilogue

A Biography of Heather Graham

PROLOGUE

S
HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN
forewarned by the receptionist’s nervous attitude; Susan wasn’t. She had agonized long and hard about coming here, and even so, she still wasn’t sure she had made the right decision. Peter’s mind was set: He loved his son, and he didn’t want David to know the truth.

So why was she here? She who believed so deeply in other people’s rights to choices and privacy?

She stared out the window of the penthouse office to the street far below. Snowflakes were falling in a gentle flurry, soft and gentle and mystical. They misted before her like a tender veil, such a contrast, she noted absently, to the deep red polish on her nails.

How long was David Lane going to keep her waiting? Each moment made it harder. She had practiced so many openings for the words she intended to say. Still, none of them sounded right; none of them could ease the reality that Peter Lane was dying.

But David was a mature man, grown and responsible. He would accept the truth, be able to understand. He had sense and strength of character, as Peter so often told her.

“I almost lost the whole thing once,” Peter had told her when they had first met. “Right after Mary died I fell to pieces, I did. David pulled it all back into shape—paid off the debts, found new backing, worked around the clock. And then he was ready to hand the reins back to me. I wouldn’t take them. Didn’t mind arguing with him now and then, but it was his turn at bat. He’d kept the game going; he’d earned it. And me … well, I was ready for some peace and quiet. The beach house full-time, and my own crotchety company most of the time.”

Thinking about Peter, Susan smiled a little sadly. Her smile faded, and she lifted her arm to glance at the face of her watch. She’d be late meeting Peter if his elusive son didn’t hurry along.

She felt that the receptionist was watching her and lightly pulled at the brim of her hat, bringing it farther over her eyes. Her ear bobs tinkled lightly. David Lane’s slender secretary looked up with a nervous smile that was still genuine. Susan smiled back, a little perplexed by the woman’s discomfort.

What was she going to say?
I understand that your business pressures have been very heavy lately, Mr. Lane, but I’m afraid it’s more imperative that you come to the beach house now and then. You see, your father

A buzzer interrupted her thoughts.

“Yes, Mr. Lane?” the slim secretary asked.

Susan didn’t hear the answer. The secretary rose quickly, smiled nervously again, and indicated the double wooden doors with the attractive brass handles. “You can go right in, Miss Anderson.”

“Thank you,” Susan said softly.

She pushed open the doors, quickly taking in the room. All the glass windows here looked out on the river. It was a beautiful view, with the ships below, the ever gentle snowflakes. The carpet was a deep, deep maroon, and the shelves were lined with books, appropriate for a publishing mogul. A very large desk stood in the center of the room in front of those shelves, but not even the size of the polished Georgian desk could diminish the stature of the man who sat behind it. His hair was very dark, sleek and shining; his shoulders were broad; his jacket impeccable.

That was all Susan could really see, because he did not bother to look up from what he was writing. She hesitated, annoyed by such pointed rudeness. He knew she was standing there; he had certainly heard the door open and close. After he had kept her waiting all that time, he couldn’t bother to look up and put his pen down?

She clenched her teeth together, trying to control her temper. After all, he couldn’t begin to understand the meaning of her visit. But he should have been interested. He should have wanted to meet her. Surely he had heard her name…

She cleared her throat softly. He still stared down at his papers, writing quickly with a monogrammed pen.

The hell with delicacy, Susan thought angrily.

She strode across the room, stopping directly in front of the desk and abstractedly studying the things there: a polished pipe rack; a few books; piles of manila envelopes; an icy glass of water sitting on a coaster just beyond the blotter.

“David Lane?” she inquired crisply.

He still didn’t look up. His voice was a cool drawl made more mocking by its natural husky tenor.

“Yes. What do you want? If it’s more money you’re after, talk to my father. You’re his mistress—not mine.”

Money? Mistress?

She tried to open her mouth to speak, but she was so furious that her vocal cords wouldn’t work. Never in her life had she been so angry that she shook with it, burned and saw nothing but white light. The thoughts were all there—the things she wanted to call him, to tell him—but still she couldn’t speak.

Susan reached calmly for the glass of water on his desk and tossed it into his face.

Then she turned around and walked regally out of David Lane’s office, closing the double doors on the thunderous oath that followed her.

The tears didn’t burn behind Susan’s eyes until she had left the Lane Building behind. It wasn’t business that kept Peter’s son away, it was her!

She tried at lunch to convince Peter that she should move out of the beach house, but he grabbed her arm in protest. She stared down at his hands, once large and powerful, now long and slender, from age and illness. She felt the trembling in them.

“Please, Susan. I need you.” His voice trembled too. He who was always so realistic, so strong, so serene. “I need you.”

“What if it’s me that’s keeping your son away?” she asked softly.

“David?” He seemed quite surprised. “David’s just glued to New York, and I can see him here anytime I want. When he gets time, he’ll come around. Ah, Susan! This project is so important to me. It can’t be completed without you….”

She knew she wouldn’t leave him, not when that catch touched his voice—a voice usually so strong and courageous. Susan realized that she was indeed making it all easier for him. She couldn’t leave. He had given her strength when she had needed it, and this was her chance to repay him.

“It was just an idea,” she said pleasantly, taking a bite of her lobster salad.

“I wish you wouldn’t insist on seeing that friend of yours tonight,” Peter said wistfully. “You could come to dinner with David and me. I’m so anxious for you to meet him.” There was a fraction of a pause. “And for him to know you.”

“Yes, well, I’m sorry, Peter. This is my only chance to see Clarisse.” Thank God she’d already made plans for the evening, she thought.

“Ah, well, he’ll come sooner or later. It’s a pity we have to go back tomorrow. But the work is important now, lass. You understand.”

“Yes,” she said very softly. “I understand.”

CHAPTER ONE

S
TANDING ON THE ROUGH
wood porch of the beach house, David paused. He could hear the wind whispering around him, rising to moan and howl as if it, too, mourned.

David clutched the raw wood railing and stared out at the water, a blue so deep that it almost appeared black today, roiling against the rocks and sand, whitecapped and thunderously brooding. The day was overcast, a storm threatening.

And that, too, seemed right. Peter Lane had loved storms. He’d loved the wind; he’d loved the sea and the tempest of the waves.

Standing there, David closed his eyes. His knuckles went white where they gripped the rail. Pain lashed through him like the onslaught of the waves, and he clenched his teeth together to keep from crying aloud with anguish. Peter had been old; this was not a tragedy, just the natural way of life.

At length David’s grip on the rail relaxed. He smiled a little bitterly. It was just the beach house. It brought so much back. Days when he had been a kid; when his father had taught him to fish and to swim, to endure the cold water, to love the wind.

They had quarreled here too. Ferociously. In the library, in the kitchen, in the bedroom—they’d quarreled throughout the house. Both stubborn, determined, and willful men.

David turned to stare at the house. Leaning against the rail and staring into the parlor through the windows, a wistful curve touched his lips as he saw his father’s rocker. He could almost imagine it moving.

“Hey, Dad,” he whispered softly, “I was only being your son. You taught me to follow my mind. To stand up for my …” His words faded as he groaned deeply and pressed his temples between his palms. “Oh, God, Dad! I miss you so much! Why … ?”

The anguish of the question hung on the wind for a moment, then seemed to be swept away by it. David squared his shoulders, stiffened, then relaxed. He smiled again and ran his hand over the railing. This place
was
Peter Lane. All the good, all the memories.

He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out the little ring of keys to the place. He opened the screen door, then the wooden one, and stepped into the foyer. Instinctively he turned left to the library. His father’s desk sat there, massive cherry wood, the swivel chair behind it slightly out, as if the desk awaited its owner.

David walked around and sat at the desk. He folded his hands prayer-fashion and touched his forefingers to his lips, surveying the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that covered two walls. Everything imaginable was held in those shelves, from Sophocles to Chaucer, Steinbeck to Poe.

Peter Lane had loved the written word. Books had been his life.

David’s eyes roamed as he turned the swivel chair. Directly behind him was a dog-eared copy of
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Smiling with affection and sadness, he plucked the book from the wall; large, strong hands roamed over the engraved cover, and the man remembered how the boy had loved it, how he had sat on his father’s lap and listened, entranced, to the story.

David replaced the book. His eyes were watering when they fell, unseeing, to the top of the desk.

He stood restlessly and idly paced around the desk to perch on its corner as he picked up his father’s old corncob pipe, the stem well chewed. Peter had owned a vast range of pipes, exquisite and exotic and beautiful pipes. Anyone who had known him and wanted to give him a gift had given him a pipe.

But the old corncobs were the ones he had loved most.

David glanced up, fingering the pipe. On the one wall not covered by windows or bookshelves was a large portrait. His father, his mother, and himself. An eager-looking ten-year-old. Peter had already been thoroughly gray; he’d been fifty at the time.

“Gray, but damned good-looking,” David said aloud to the portrait. “You were one distinguished man, all right!”

And he had been. Lines had wizened his face; his nose had been something of a beak, but fierce arctic-blue eyes had ruled his face, and the simple character of his features had made him striking. Tall, lean, and proud. And why not? He’d fought his way from a penniless Irish immigrant to the owner of a book publishing house, and he’d done it all honestly, never once losing sight of his principles or beliefs.

Once again David stood restlessly and walked around to sit in the swivel chair. There was brandy in the bottom left-hand drawer. David leaned down and pulled it out, ignoring the crystal glasses beside it. He stretched his legs out over the desk, leaned back in the chair, and took a long swig.

They’d always quarreled. As a kid, David had fought for independence. Having had his own wild fling in his teens, Peter had been determined to curb his son. Then it had been the war. David’s friends all had been heading for Canada. Peter had insisted that David enlist.

BOOK: Handful of Dreams
10.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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