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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31





Chapter Seven

            'Hello?' Madison said, reaching for the phone. Slammer immediately began licking her bare arm with his wet, floppy tongue. 'Hello,' she repeated, attempting to push the overly affectionate dog away.

            'Hi, sweetheart, it's Michael.'

            How come he never said 'Dad'? It was weird, but ever since she could remember she'd called her parents by their first names. Stella and Michael. Sometimes she kind of wished for the Dad thing.

            'I'm asleep,' she mumbled.

            'Now you know what it's like,' he said, good-naturedly. 'Call me back when you wake up.'

            'No, no, don't go away,' she said quickly. 'What time is it?'

            'Eight.'

            'On Saturday?' she said, struggling to sit up.

            'I was thinking that if you were available I'd drive into the city and we'd go for brunch.'

            'That'd be great,' she said, stifling a yawn. 'You and Stella?'

            'No,' he said shortly. 'Stella can't make it.'

            'Why?'

            'It doesn't matter. Where would you like to go?' 'How about the Plaza?' she suggested. 'It's all kind of, like, you know, grown-up.'

            He laughed softly. 'My intelligent big girl is such a kid sometimes.'

            She smiled. Why not? He was her father, and it was I fun to feel like a kid again. 'Will you pick me up at my apartment?' she said, stifling another yawn.

            'I'll do that.'

            She put down the phone and hauled herself out of bed. Slammer followed, panting and watching her with his big, soulful brown eyes as she headed for the bathroom.

            'I suppose you want to go out,' she said. He barked I once. Sometimes she could swear he understood every word. 'Okay, okay, let me clean my teeth and put some clothes on, then you and I will hit the streets.'

            She wriggled into a pair of faded jeans and a -sweatshirt, tied her hair back and left the apartment, an eager Slammer trotting obediently beside her.

            In the elevator she remembered she'd left the, pooper-scooper behind and had to go back to get it. It was humiliating walking the streets and picking up dog crap. Whoever came up with that rule?

            Outside, the crisp morning air woke her up. She began thinking about her conversation with her father. If Michael was coming into town without Stella on a weekend, it definitely meant he had something to tell her. It must be about why they'd decided to move to Manhattan, why they'd called her best friend's partner to tell him, and not bothered mentioning it to her. It was all too bizarre. What could his excuse possibly be?

            As she walked briskly along the street she wondered how Peter and Jamie had managed the previous night. Had they gotten into a mammoth fight? Or maybe they'd indulged in one of the long lovemaking sessions that Jamie said Peter desired every day.

            Hmm ...David had been like that. She remembered the time they'd gone to the theatre to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. After that she'd nicknamed him David and the Amazing Insatiable Cock.

            Now the insatiable cock was performing elsewhere. Too bad. A familiar face jogged by. A tall, rugged soap actor, whom she spotted every weekend. They exchanged nods of recognition. Around the corner she bumped into BoBo, the area's famous Scottish dog walker. Short and squat, with a mop of carrot-coloured hair and numerous freckles, he was quite a character. Somehow or other he managed six dogs while wearing a kilt and carrying a Saks shopping bag in which to deposit his charges' offerings. Slammer was in love with one of BoBo's charges, Candy, a sexy miniature poodle who refused to have anything to do with him.

            'Morning, Miss,' BoBo said, cheerful as ever. 'Morning, BoBo. How's it going?'

            'Glad to hear it,' she said, idly wondering if he wore anything under his kilt.

            'If you ever need me t' look after Slammer, just say the word,' BoBo offered, fishing in his pocket for a treat with which he proceeded to tempt the big dog.

            'I'll keep that in mind,' Madison said, thinking of how much she was looking forward to getting together with her father. The last time she'd seen him was a few months ago when she'd rented a car and driven there on Friday night, returning to the city twenty-four hours later. Sometimes the anticipation of spending time with her parents was better than the actual event. When she had Michael to herself she was much happier than hanging out with both of them. Stella, was hardly the warm and loving motherly type.

            While she was there, Stella had languished in the garden lying on a chaise-longue under a striped umbrella, sipping iced tea, while Michael had walked her around the grounds, showing off his roses.

            'Isn't it awfully quite here after New York?' she'd asked, surprised that he was so settled.

            'I like it here,' he'd said. 'No pressure.'

            'No action either,' she'd replied. 'When I was a kid you and Stella loved getting all dressed up and hitting the restaurants and clubs. Action was your middle name.'

            Michael had nodded thoughtfully. 'Sometimes Stella misses the action. Although most of the time she's perfectly happy, like me.'

            Sometimes Madison couldn't help wondering if he'd ever screwed around on the beautiful Stella.

            No. Her father wasn't that kind of guy. Michael had integrity.

            Madison often wished that she could find a guy with integrity. It was more important than a great butt any day.

            Back at her apartment, she took a shower and tried to decide what to wear, finally settling on tight black pants, boots and a man's white shirt knotted at the waist. For a change she wore her hair down, then added tinted shades. David had always liked her in tinted shades. 'Makes you look like a movie star,' he used to joke. Ha! Only David would call her a movie star. She added a couple of crosses strung around her neck on black leather thongs, and some Indian silver hoop earnings. Then, with nothing else to do while she waited for Michael, she picked up the phone and called the private detective victor had recommended.

            A woman answered the phone, terse and unfriendly. 'Yeah?'

            'Oh, um hi. I'm looking for K. Florian.'

            'You want to set up Anton appointment?'

            'That's right.'

            'Can you make it at four o'clock today?'

            'The weekend isn't good. How about Monday or Tuesday?'

            'Monday , ten o'clock.'

            'Where?'

            'You want to come here? Or shall I come to you?'

            'Are you K. Florian?'

            Anton aggressive 'What's the matter? You shocked I'm a woman?'

            'No,' Madison said quickly. 'I guess I was expecting a man, but a woman's fine with me.'

            'I'll come to you then. What's the address?'

            'Uh.you do realize that this is confidential. Y' see, it's not me hiring you, it's my friend. So uh. I'll make sure she's here at ten on Monday.'

            'What's this about? A cheating husband?'

            'How did you know?'

            'It's always the same story.' A beat. 'Listen, if he's cheating, I can get the good within twenty -four hours.'

            'Sounds very efficient. I'll give you my address.'

            She did so, then decided she'd better contact Jamie to let her know. Peter answered the phone. 'Bad news!' he groaned. 'My have major hangover.'

            'I'm not surprised.'

            'You're not? Why? Were you drinking with me last night? What did I do?'

            'No, I wasn't your drinking partner, but for a moment you were knocking it back pretty good in front of me.'

            'Did I say something I shouldn't 've?'

            'You were fine, Peter- really.'

            'Remind me never to drink again.'

            'I always remind you of that.'

            'Even my eyelashes hurt!'

            'Is your wife around?'

            'Jamie!' he yelled. 'it's Maddy.'

            'Coming,' Jamie called out in the background.

            'What are you up to today?' he asked. 'Anything exciting?'

            'Meeting Michael for brunch. And you two are-' 'Shopping,' he complained. 'My punishment for being bad.'

            'Maybe I'll catch up with you guys later.'

            'You'll find us at Barney's, followed by Bergdorf's and Saks. Doesn't that sound like a fun afternoon for a reformed drunk?'

            Jamie picked up the extension. 'Hi!' she said happily. 'How are you today?'

            'Great,' Madison said. 'And you?'

            'Last night was something, wasn't it?' Jamie giggled. 'I had a lousy time. Can you imagine getting stuck next to Joel Blaine? I mean really!'

            'Don't be so down on him,' Jamie said. 'Joel's not so bad. In fact, I find him sort of attractive in Anton odd kind of earthy way.'

            'What?' Peter said, still listening in on the extension. 'The guy's a moron. His dad's the one with the smarts.'

            'You only say that because Leon's a multibillionaire,' Jamie said. 'You and money, Petey, you revel in it.'

            'So do you, sweet thing, so do yo.'

            'Put down the extension, Peter. I'd prefer to speak to Madison without you joining in.'

            'Don't mind me,' he said. 'I'm taking a cold shower and swallowing a bottle of aspirin. 'I'm still trying to understand why you didn't give them to me last night. You could've saved me a monster hangover.'

            'What am I- your nurse?' Jamie said crisply.

            'Oh, I forgot,' Peter said. 'You were too busy flirting with Kris Phoenix.' 'Hey, listen, guys,' Madison interrupted, 'much as I love listening to you two bicker, can you please do it on your own time?'

            'Sure,' Peter said. 'See you.' And he clicked off.

            'Has he gone?' Madison asked.

            'Yes,' Jamie said. 'I can always tell if he's still listening in.'

            'You were having fun last night.'

            'As a matter of fact I was,' Jamie said, giggling softly. 'Kris Phoenix was saying some very flattering things.'

            'No big one, Jamie, you've been hearing very flattering things since you were ten. Guys have always been on your case.'

            'But, Maddy, this was Kris Phoenix! We used to buy his records, follow his romances is the magazines. It's a huge kick being hit on a by a guy like that. It'd be like Mick Jagger coming on to me.'

            'I'm sure that can be arranged any time you want,' Madison said drily. 'Apparently Mick Jagger comes on to anything that breathes!'

            Jamie laughed.

            'Anyway ,' Madison continued, 'enough about your love-life. Remember that thing we discussed?'

            'What thing?' Jamie said vaguely.

            'You know what I'm talking about. It's set for Monday, ten o'clock, my apartment.'

            'Oh.you mean the detective thing.'

            'What's the matter?'

            'Well .'Jamie said, hesitating for a moment. 'do you honestly think I should go through with it?'

            'If you're suspicious, yes.'

            'I'm not so sure any more. We had such a fantastic time last night when we got home. I know Peter was drunk and everything, and I was kind of, like .well, I guess I was on a high. Getting hit on by a rock star certainly revs the old adrenaline!'

            'Are you saying you want me to call it off?'

            'No. I guess I should do it. No harm done, right? Only I'm not that suspicious any more.'

            'Then don't do it,' Madison said, exasperated. 'Nobody's forcing you. I'll call back and cancel.'

            'What would you do?'

            'It's not my situation,' Madison said. 'I know how you hate making decision, but this one is all yours.'

            'Okay, okay,' Jamie said. 'I'll do it. Just so I can say to myself, silly suspicious me.'

            'That's a fair decision.'

            'Nothing lost, right?'

            'Right. Peter tells me you're going shopping at Barney's.'

            'Yes, my darling husband has promised to buy me whatever I want.' A soft chuckle. 'And after last night, believe me, I deserve it.'

***

            Madison was right, Michael Castelli was the best-looking fifty -eight-year-old in Connecticut. Six feet tall, he was slim and well built, with black curly hair, smooth olive skin, and the same sharply defined cheek-bones and seductive lips as his daughter. They looked alike. This pleased Madison.

            Maybe she was prejudiced, but it seemed to her that age suited him - Michael got better looking each year. He wasn't handsome in the traditional way, not like that soap actor she saw jogging every weekend. No, he had Anton Alexander Pacino / Robert Dexter Niro edge - a look of danger-which apparently turned women on, because for as long as she could remember women had always had eyes for her father.

            'Hi, Michael,' she said.

            'Hey, sweetheart,' he said, hugging her. 'It's good to see you.'

            'You too,' she responded.

            'Still living by yourself?' he inquired, strolling into her apartment.

            'Why? Would you sooner I had a resident man?' she teased, wishing she'd had more of a chance to tidy up.

            'I'd sooner you were married to a guy.'

            'As opposed to married to a girl?'

            'Cut the comedy. I'm not joking.'

            'I'm only twenty-nine,' she protested. 'Why this sudden desire to see me married off?'

            'Cause we live in a tough world, sweetheart,' he said. 'And I'd prefer to see you protected.'

            She found herself giggling. 'protected? You sound like a scene out of The Godfather.'

            He threw her a look.

            'I'm making another joke,' she said.

            Slammer padded over and drooled on Michael's black Armani pants. He didn't appreciate the dog's attention. He took a quick step back. 'Keep that animal away from me,' he said, brushing off his pants. 'I hate dogs.'

            'You sound like Stella.'

            'Not me.'

            Since it was such a clear and crisp morning, they decided to walk to the Plaza. Madison felt pretty good strolling along Lexington with her father. She wished she could see more of him, but a few times a year was better than nothing.

            'So,' she said, as they headed towards the hotel, 'When am I going to hear what's going on?'

            'Cant' you wait until I get a cup of coffee?' he said. 'No,' replied, unable to hold back any longer. 'I'm really pissed, Michael. How could you not tell me you're moving back to the city?'

            He looked at her blankly. 'What are you talking about?'

            'Anton told me.'

            'Who's Anton, and what did he tell you?'

            'Anton is Jamie's partner. They have Anton interior design business. He told me that Stella called him about decorating your New York apartment.'

            'Did Stella tell him where she could be reached?'

            'I guess so. I didn't ask. What's going on?'

            'You're just like me. Impatient. Have to know everything immediately.'

            'This isn't exactly immediately,' she pointed out. 'I doubt you'd be telling me anything at all if I hadn't busted you on it.'

            

            'You know if I didn't tell you there had to be a reason, right?'

            'Right. So when am I going to hear?'

            'Jesus!' he said irritably. 'Take it easy.'

            'Okay, I'll be patient. How is Stella anyway? And why didn't she come with you today?' Michael stared straight ahead. 'No idea. Haven't seen her in a while.'

            Uh-oh, this is not good. 'What do you mean? How could you not see her when you live together?'

            'You couldn't wait until we're sitting down eating brunch like two civilized people,' he said harshly. 'No, you have to find out now.' He took a long ominous beat. 'The reason I haven't seen Stella is because she left me.'

            'She did what?' Madison said breathlessly.

            'You heard.'

            'Stella left you?'

            'You got it. Ran off with some twenty-six-year-old kid.'

            'I don't believe it!'

            'Believe it,' he said flatly. 'It happened.'

            'But you and Mom, you've always been so close.'

            'That's what I thought.'

            'How did it happen?'

            'Who know?' He said evenly. 'I'm merely the guy who got left. Came home one day and she was gone. I haven't spoken to her since.'

            'Oh, my God!' Madison exclaimed, trying to digest this shocking news. 'That's the story, Princess,' Michael said calmly. 'I guess it's her who's moving to New York , not me.'

            They walked in silence for a few minutes, until Madison suddenly stopped and faced him. 'How .how can you let her do this to me?' Michael laughed drily. 'Nobody's doing anything to you,' he said.

            'You're my parents,' she said accusingly, knowing she sounded unreasonable but unable to stop herself. 'I don't want divorced parents.' 'You don't want divorced parent, huh?' he repeated. 'What are you -eight?'

            'No,' she said heatedly. 'But I've always looked up to you both as Anton example. Your marriage was .well, anyway, I thought it was so idyllic. The two of you.for ever together.'

            'Everything isn't always what it seems,' he said grimly. 'Stella wanted a younger body in her bed. Harder abs. Harder everything.' A cold laugh. 'Hey, guys do it all the time. Thing is- I don't happen to be that kind of guy.'

            Madison clung on to his arm. 'Are you okay?' she asked, realizing that he was taking this far too calmly.

            'Me? I'm fine,' he said. 'I was planning on telling you when I was ready. Didn't want to spring it on you out of nowhere.' Another dry laugh. 'Guess we blew that.'

            'How long ago did this happen?'

            'A few weeks.'

            'Why hasn't she called me?'

            'You were never exactly close, were you?'

            'She is my mother. Don't you think I should have heard it from her?'

            'Madison,' he sighed, 'you're all grown up. You've got a great job interviewing lots of interesting people, and you do it well. You've achieved plenty, which I know wasn't easy.' A long, slow beat. 'Truth is, you didn't always get the attention from either of us that you deserved, and somehow that bothers me.'

            'I guess..'she mumbled, feeling totally mixed up and sad. 'It was you and Stella, I was the outsider.'

            'Don't get carried away.'

            'No, Michael, I was. That's why I'm so shocked at this news.'

            'Listen, sweetheart,' he said, speaking fast, 'there's something else I have to tell you -something that might help you understand things better.'

            'What?' she asked, holding his arm tighter.

            'It'll have to wait until we're sitting down.' She nodded blankly. Today was definitely going to be a day to remember.

   


Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62