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Leslie Stewart, a brainy and beauteous ad agency exec, falls hard for a handsome client, attorney Oliver Russell, whose campaign for the governorship of Kentucky began foundering when he lost the support of Senator Todd Davis after two-timing Davis's daughter Jan. The crafty, powerful lawmaker soon engineers a reconciliation between Jan and Oliver, who unhesitatingly sacrifices Leslie on the altar of his political ambition. In short order, the happy pair find themselves the Bluegrass State's first couple while embittered Leslie heads to Arizona, where she eventually becomes the trophy wife of wealthy businessman Henry Chambers. Henry obligingly dies two years later, freeing Leslie to expand his media holdings in aid of her obsessive desire to get even with the inconstant Oliver. Years later, as the Russells are moving into the White House, the vindictive publisher acquires influential newspaper/television outlets in D.C., which she uses to rake up old scandals that put her erstwhile lover in a bad light. Further disclosures of adultery, murder, and other high crimes have the embattled chief executive on the ropes. In a startling reversal of fortune, however, the true villain of the piece is exposed on live TV, leaving Leslie with egg and more on her lovely face, and allowing Oliver to pursue a semi-noble agenda calculated to bring peace to the Middle East.
A twisty yarn with few real surprises: Sheldon continues to exploit his special talent for getting down and dirty with the high and mighty.
Dear Diary: This morning I met the man I am going tomarry.
It was a simple, optimistic statement, with not theslightest portent of the dramatic chain of events that was aboutto occur.
It was one of those rare, serendipitous days when nothingcould go wrong, when nothing would dare go wrong. LeslieStewart had no interest in astrology, but that morning, as she was leafing through the Lexington Herald-Leader, a horoscope in an astrology column by Zoltaire caught her eye. Itread:
FOR LEO (JULY 23RD TO AUGUST 22ND). THE NEWMOON ILLUMINATES YOUR LOVE LIFE. YOU ARE IN YOURLUNAR CYCLE HIGH NOW, AND MUST PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO AN EXCITING NEW EVENT IN YOUR LIFE. YOURCOMPATIBLE SIGN IS VIRGO. TODAY WILL BE A RED-LETTER DAY. BE PREPARED TO ENJOY IT.
Be prepared to enjoy what? Leslie thought wryly. Today wasgoing to be like every other day. Astrology was nonsense, mindcandy for fools.
Leslie Stewart was a public relations and advertising executive at the Lexington, Kentucky, firm of Bailey & Tomkins.She had three meetings scheduled for that afternoon, the firstwith the Kentucky Fertilizer Company, whose executives wereexcited about the new campaign she was working up for them.They especially liked its beginning: If you want to smell theroses... The second meeting was with the Breeders StudFarm, and the third with the Lexington Coal Company. Red-letter day?
In her late twenties, with a slim, provocative figure, Leslie Stewart had an exciting, exotic look; gray, sloe eyes, high cheekbones, and soft, honey-colored hair, which she wore long and elegantly simple. A friend of Leslies had once told her,If youre beautiful and have a brain and a vagina, you can own the world.
Leslie Stewart was beautiful and had an IQ of 170, andnature had taken care of the rest. But she found her looks a disadvantage. Men were constantly propositioning her or proposing, but few of them bothered to try really to get to know her.
Aside from the two secretaries who worked at Bailey &Tomkins, Leslie was the only woman there. There were fifteenmale employees. It had taken Leslie less than a week to learnthat she was more intelligent than any of them. It was a discovery she decided to keep to herself.
In the beginning, both partners, Jim Bailey, an overweight, soft-spoken man in his forties, and Al Tomkins, anorexic and hyper, ten years younger than Bailey, individuallytried to talk Leslie into going to bed with them.
She had stopped them very simply. Ask me once more,and Ill quit.
That had put an end to that. Leslie was too valuable anemployee to lose.
Her first week on the job, during a coffee break, Lesliehad told her fellow employees a joke.
Three men came across a female genie who promised togrant each one a wish. The first man said, I wish I weretwenty-five percent smarter. The genie blinked, and the mansaid, Hey, I feel smarter already.
The second man said, I wish I were fifty percentsmarter. The genie blinked, and the man exclaimed, Thats wonderful! I think I know things now that I didnt know before.
The third man said, Id like to be one hundred percentsmarter.
So the genie blinked, and the man changed into awoman.
Leslie looked expectantly at the men at the table. Theywere all staring at her, unamused.
The red-letter day that the astrologer had promised began ateleven oclock that morning. Jim Bailey walked into Lesliestiny, cramped office.
We have a new client, he announced. I want you totake charge.
She was already handling more accounts than anyone elseat the firm, but she knew better than to protest.
Fine, she said. What is it?
Its not a what, its a who. Youve heard of Oliver Russell,of course?
Everyone had heard of Oliver Russell. A local attorney andcandidate for governor, he had his face on billboards all overKentucky. With his brilliant legal record, he was considered, atthirty-five, the most eligible bachelor in the state. He was onall the talk shows on the major television stations in LexingtonWDKY, WTVQ, WKYTand on the popular local radiostations, WKQQ and WLRO. Strikingly handsome, with black, unruly hair, dark eyes, an athletic build, and a warm smile, hehad the reputation of having slept with most of the ladies inLexington.
Yes, Ive heard of him. What are we going to do forhim?
Were going to try to help turn him into the governor ofKentucky. Hes on his way here now.
Oliver Russell arrived a few minutes later. He was even moreattractive in person than in his photographs.
When he was introduced to Leslie, he smiled warmly.Ive heard a lot about you. Im so glad youre going to handlemy campaign.
He was not at all what Leslie had expected. There was acompletely disarming sincerity about the man. For a moment,Leslie was at a loss for words.
Ithank you. Please sit down.
Oliver Russell took a seat.
Lets start at the beginning, Leslie suggested. Why areyou running for governor?
Its very simple. Kentuckys a wonderful state. We knowit is, because we live here, and were able to enjoy its magicbut much of the country thinks of us as a bunch of hillbillies.I want to change that image. Kentucky has more to offer thana dozen other states combined. The history of this country began here. We have one of the oldest capitol buildings in America. Kentucky gave this country two presidents. Its the land of Daniel Boone and Kit Carson and Judge Roy Bean. We havethe most beautiful scenery in the worldexciting caves, rivers,bluegrass fieldseverything. I want to open all that up to therest of the world.
He spoke with a deep conviction, and Leslie found herselfstrongly drawn to him. She thought of the astrology column. The new moon illuminates your love life. Today will be a red-letterday. Be prepared to enjoy it.
Oliver Russell was saying, The campaign wont work unless you believe in this as strongly as I do.
I do, Leslie said quickly. Too quickly? Im really looking forward to this. She hesitated a moment. May I ask youa question?
Whats your birth sign?
After Oliver Russell left, Leslie went into Jim Baileys office. Ilike him, she said. Hes sincere. He really cares. I think hedmake a fine governor.
Jim looked at her thoughtfully. Its not going to be easy.
She looked at him, puzzled. Oh? Why?
Bailey shrugged. Im not sure. Theres something goingon that I cant explain. Youve seen Russell on all the billboardsand on television?
Well, thats stopped.
I dont understand. Why?
No one knows for certain, but there are a lot of strangerumors. One of the rumors is that someone was backing Russell, putting up all the money for his campaign, and then forsome reason suddenly dropped him.
In the middle of a campaign he was winning? Thatdoesnt make sense, Jim.
Why did he come to us?
He really wants this. I think hes ambitious. And he feelshe can make a difference. He would like us to figure out acampaign that wont cost him a lot of money. He cant affordto buy any more airtime or do much advertising. All we canreally do for him is to arrange interviews, plant newspaper articles, that sort of thing. He shook his head. Governor Addison is spending a fortune on his campaign. In the last two weeks, Russells gone way down in the polls. Its a shame. Hesa good lawyer. Does a lot of pro bono work. I think hed makea good governor, too.
That night Leslie made her first note in her new diary.
Dear Diary: This morning I met the man I am going tomarry.
Copyright ) 1997 by The Sidney Sheldon Family Limited Partnership
The first entry in Leslie Stewart's diary read:
Dear Diary: This morning I met the man I am going to marry.
It was a simple, optimistic statement, with not the slightest portent of the dramatic chain of events that was about to occur.
It was one of those rare, serendipitous days when nothing could go wrong, when nothing would dare go wrong. Leslie Stewart had no interest in astrology, but that morning, as she was leafing through the Lexington Herald-Leader, a horoscope in an astrology column by Zoltaire caught her eye. It read:
For Leo (July 23rd to August 22nd). The new moon illuminates your love life. You are in your lunar cycle high now, and must pay close attention to an exciting new event in your life. Your compatible sign is Virgo. Today will be a red letter day. Be prepared to enjoy it.
Be prepared to enjoy what? Leslie thought wryly. Today was going to be like every other day. Astrology was nonsense, mind candy for fools.
Leslie Stewart was a public relations and advertising executive at the Lexington, Kentucky, firm of Bailey & Tomkins. She had three meetings scheduled for that afternoon, the first with the Kentucky Fertilizer Company, whose executives were excited about the new campaign she was working up for them. They especially liked its beginning: "If you want to smell the roses...." The second meeting was with the Breeders Stud Farm, and the third with the Lexington Coal Company. Red letter day?
In her late twenties, with a slim, provocative figure, Leslie Stewart had an exciting, exotic look; gray, sloe eyes, high cheekbones, and soft, honey-colored hair, which she wore long and elegantly simple. A friend of Leslie's had once told her, "If you're beautiful and have a brain and a vagina, you can own the world."
Leslie Stewart was beautiful and had an IQ of 170, and nature had taken care of the rest. But she found her looks a disadvantage. Men were constantly propositioning her or proposing, but few of them bothered to try really to get to know her.
Aside from the two secretaries who worked at Bailey & Tomkins, Leslie was the only woman there. There were fifteen male employees. It had taken Leslie less than a week to learn that she was more intelligent than any of them. It was a discovery she decided to keep to herself.
In the beginning, both partners, Jim Bailey, an overweight, soft-spoken man in his forties, and Al Tomkins, anorexic and hyper, ten years younger than Bailey, individually tried to talk Leslie into going to bed with them.
She had stopped them very simply. "Ask me once more, and I'll quit."
That had put an end to that. Leslie was too valuable an employee to lose.
Her first week on the job, during a coffee break, Leslie had told her fellow employees a joke.
"Three men came across a female genie who promised to grant each one a wish. The first man said, 'I wish I were twenty-five percent smarter.' The genie blinked, and the man said, 'Hey, I feel smarter already.'
"The second man said, 'I wish I were fifty percent smarter.' The genie blinked, and the man exclaimed, 'That's wonderful! I think I know things now that I didn't know before.'
"The third man said, 'I'd like to be one hundred percent smarter.'
"So the genie blinked, and the man changed into a woman."
Leslie looked expectantly at the men at the table. They were all staring at her, unamused.
The red-letter day that the astrologer had promised began at eleven o'clock that morning. Jim Bailey walked into Leslie's tiny, cramped office.
"We have a new client," he announced. "I want you to take charge."
She was already handling more accounts than anyone else at the firm, but she knew better than to protest.
"Fine," she said. "What is it?"
"It's not a what, it's a who. You've heard of Oliver Russell, of course?"
Everyone had heard of Oliver Russell. A local attorney and candidate for governor, he had his face on billboards all over Kentucky. With his brilliant legal record, he was considered, at thirty-five, the most eligible bachelor in the state. He was on all the talk shows on the major television stations in Lexington--WDKY, WTVQ, WKYT--and on the popular local radio stations, WKQQ and WLRO. Strikingly handsome, with black, unruly hair, dark eyes, an athletic build, and a warm smile, he had the reputation of having slept with most of the ladies in Lexington.
"Yes, I've heard of him. What are we going to do for him?"
"We're going to try to help turn him into the governor of Kentucky. He's on his way here now."
Oliver Russell arrived a few minutes later. He was even more attractive in person than in his photographs.
When he was introduced to Leslie, he smiled warmly. "I've heard a lot about you. I'm so glad you're going to handle my campaign."
He was not at all what Leslie had expected. There was a completely disarming sincerity about the man. For a moment, Leslie was at a loss for words.
"I--thank you. Please sit down."
Oliver Russell took a seat.
"Let's start at the beginning," Leslie suggested. "Why are you running for governor?"
"It's very simple. Kentucky's a wonderful state. We know it is, because we live here, and we're able to enjoy its magic--but much of the country thinks of us as a bunch of hillbillies. I want to change that image. Kentucky has more to' offer than a dozen other states combined. The history of this country began here. We have one of the oldest capitol buildings in America. Kentucky gave this country two presidents. It's the land of Daniel Boone and Kit Carson and Judge Roy Bean. We have the most beautiful scenery in the world--exciting caves, rivers, bluegrass fields--everything. I want to open all that up to the rest of the world."
He spoke with a deep conviction, and Leslie found herself strongly drawn to him. She thought of the astrology column. "The new moon illuminates your love life. Today will be a red letter day. Be prepared to enjoy it."
Oliver Russell was saying, "The campaign won't work unless you believe in this as strongly as I do."
"I do," Leslie said quickly. Too quickly? "I'm really looking forward to this." She hesitated a moment. "May I ask you a question?"
"What's your birth sign?"
After Oliver Russell left, Leslie went into Jim Bailey's office. "I like him," she said. "He's sincere. He really cares. I think he'd make a fine governor."
Jim looked at her thoughtfully. "It's not going to be easy."
She looked at him, puzzled. "Oh? Why?"'
Bailey shrugged. "I'm not sure. There's something going on that I can't explain. You've seen Russell on all the billboards and on television?"
"Well, that's stopped."
"I don't understand. Why?"
"No one knows for certain, but there are a lot of strange rumors. One of the rumors is that someone was backing Russell, putting up all the money for his campaign, and then for some reason suddenly dropped him."
"In the middle of a campaign he was winning? That doesn't make sense, Jim."
"Why did he come to us?"
"He really wants this. I think he's ambitious. And he feels he can make a difference. He would like us to figure out a campaign that won't cost him a lot of money. He can't afford to buy any more airtime or do much advertising. All we can really do for him is to arrange interviews, plant newspaper articles, that sort of thing." He shook his head. "Governor Addison is spending a fortune on his campaign. In the last two weeks, Russell's gone way down in the polls. It's a shame. He's a good lawyer. Does a lot of pro bono work. I think he'd make a good governor, too."
That night Leslie made her first note in her new diary.
Dear Diary: This morning I met the man I am going to marry.
Leslie Stewart's early childhood was idyllic. She was an extraordinarily intelligent child. Her father was an English professor at Lexington Community College and her mother was a housewife. Leslie's father was a handsome man, patrician and intellectual. He was a caring father, and he saw to it that the family took their vacations together and traveled together. Her father adored her. "You're Daddy's girl," he would say. He would tell her how beautiful she looked and compliment her on her grades, her behavior, her friends. Leslie could do no wrong in his eyes. For her ninth birthday, her father bought her a beautiful brown velvet dress with lace cuffs. He would have her put the dress on, and he would show her off to his friends when they came to dinner. "Isn't she a beauty?" he would say.
Leslie worshiped him.
One morning, a year later, in a split second, Leslie's wonderful life vanished. Her mother, face stained with tears, sat her down. "Darling, your father has ... left us."
Leslie did not understand at first. "When will he be back?"
"He's not coming back."
And each word was a sharp knife.
My mother has driven him away, Leslie thought. She felt sorry for her mother because now there would be a divorce and a custody fight. Her father would never let her go. Never. He'll come for me, Leslie told herself.
But weeks passed, and her father never called. They won't let him come and see me, Leslie decided. Mother's punishing him.
It was Leslie's elderly aunt who explained to the child that there would be no custody battle. Leslie's father had fallen in love with a widow who taught at the university and had moved in with her, in her house on Limestone Street.
One day when they were out shopping, Leslie's mother pointed out the house. "That's where they live," she said bitterly.
Leslie resolved to visit her father. When he sees me, she thought, he'll want to come home.
On a Friday, after school, Leslie went to the house on Limestone Street and rang the doorbell. The door was opened by a girl Leslie's age. She was wearing a brown velvet dress with lace cuffs. Leslie stared at her, in shock.
The little girl was looking at her curiously. "Who are you?"
Over the next year, Leslie watched her mother retire into herself. She had lost all interest in life. Leslie had believed that "dying of a broken heart" was an empty phrase, but Leslie helplessly watched her mother fade away and die, and when people asked her what her mother had died of, Leslie answered, "She died of a broken heart."
And Leslie resolved that no man would ever do that to her.
After her mother's death, Leslie moved in with her aunt. Leslie attended Bryan Station High School and was graduated from the University of Kentucky summa cum laude. In her final year in college, she was voted beauty queen, and turned down numerous offers from modeling agencies.
Leslie had two brief affairs, one with a college football hero, and the other with her economics professor. They quickly bored her. The fact was that she was brighter than both of them.
Just before Leslie was graduated, her aunt died. Leslie finished school and applied for a job at the advertising and public relations agency of Bailey & Tomkins. Its offices were on Vine Street in a U-shaped brick building with a copper roof and a fountain in the courtyard.
Jim Bailey, the senior partner, had examined Leslie's resume, and nodded. "Very impressive. You're in luck. We need a secretary."
"A secretary? I hoped--"
Leslie started as a secretary, taking notes at all the meetings, her mind all the while judging and thinking of ways to improve the advertising campaigns that were being suggested. One morning, an account executive was saying, "I've thought of the perfect logo for the Rancho Beef Chili account. On the label of the can, we show a picture of a cowboy roping a cow. It suggests that the beef is fresh, and--"
That's a terrible idea, Leslie thought. They were all staring at her, and to her horror, Leslie realized she had spoken aloud.
"Would you mind explaining that, young lady?"
"I ..." She wished she were somewhere else. Anywhere. They were all waiting. Leslie took a deep breath. "When people eat meat, they don't want to be reminded that they're eating a dead animal."
There was a heavy silence. Jim Bailey cleared his throat. "Maybe we should give this a little more thought."
The following week, during a meeting on how to publicize a new beauty soap account, one of the executives said, "We'll use beauty contest winners."
"Excuse me," Leslie said diffidently. "I believe that's been done. Why couldn't we use lovely flight attendants from around the world to show that our beauty soap is universal?"
In the meetings after that, the men found themselves turning to Leslie for her opinion.
A year later, she was a junior copywriter, and two years after that, she became an account executive, handling both advertising and publicity.
Oliver Russell was the first real challenge that Leslie had had at the agency. Two weeks after Oliver Russell came to them, Bailey suggested to Leslie that it might be better to drop him, because he could not afford to pay their usual agency fee, but Leslie persuaded him to keep the account.
"Call it pro bono," she said.
Bailey studied her a moment. "Right." Leslie and Oliver Russell were seated on a bench in Triangle Park. It was a cool fall day, with a soft breeze coming from the lake. "I hate politics," Oliver Russell said.
Leslie looked at him in surprise. "Then why in the world are you--?"
"Because I want to change the system, Leslie. It's been taken over by lobbyists and corporations that help put the wrong people in power and then control them. There are a lot of things I want to do." His voice was filled with passion. "The people who are running the country have turned it into an old boys' club. They care more about themselves than they do about the people. It's not right, and I'm going to try to correct that."
Leslie listened as Oliver went on, and she was thinking, He could do it. There was such a compelling excitement about him. The truth was that she found everything about him exciting. She had never felt this way about a man before, and it was an exhilarating experience. She had no way of knowing how he felt about her. He is always the perfect gentleman, damn him. It seemed to Leslie that every few minutes people were coming up to the park bench to shake Oliver's hand and to wish him well. The women were visually throwing daggers at Leslie. They've probably all been out with him, Leslie thought. They've probably all been to bed with him. Well, that's none of my business.
She had heard that until recently he had been dating the daughter of a senator. She wondered what had happened. That's none of my business, either.
There was no way to avoid the fact that Oliver's campaign was going badly. Without money to pay his staff, and no television, radio, or newspaper ads, it was impossible to compete with Governor Cary Addison, whose image seemed to be everywhere. Leslie arranged for Oliver to appear at company picnics, at factories, and at dozens of social events, but she knew these appearances were all minor-league, and it frustrated her.
"Have you seen the latest polls?" Jim Bailey asked Leslie. "Your boy is going down the tubes."
Not if I can help it, Leslie thought.
Leslie and Oliver were having dinner at Cheznous. "It's not working, is it?" Oliver asked quietly.
"[here's still plenty of time," Leslie said reassuringly. "When the voters get to know you--"
Oliver shook his head. "I read the polls, too. I want you to know I appreciate everything you've tried to do for me, Leslie. You've been great."
She sat there looking at him across the table, thinking, He's the most wonderful man I've ever met, and I can't help him. She wanted to take him in her arms and hold him and console him. Console him? Who am I kidding?
As they got up to leave, a man, a woman, and two small girls approached the table.
"Oliver! How are you?" The speaker was in his forties, an attractive-looking man with a black eye patch that gave him the raffish look of an amiable pirate.
Oliver rose and held out his hand. "Hello, Peter. I'd like you to meet Leslie Stewart. Peter Tager."
"Hello, Leslie." Tager nodded toward his family. "This is my wife, Betsy, and this is Elizabeth and this is Rebecca." There was enormous pride in his voice.
Peter Tager turned to Oliver. "I'm awfully sorry about what happened. It's a damned shame. I hated to do it, but I had no choice."
"I understand, Peter."
"If there was anything I could have done--"
"It doesn't matter. I'm fine."
"You know I wish you only the best of luck."
On the way home, Leslie asked, "What was that all about?"
Oliver started to say something, then stopped. "It's not important."
Leslie lived in a neat one-bedroom apartment in the Brandywine section of Lexington. As they approached the building, Oliver said hesitantly, "Leslie, I know that your agency is handling me for almost nothing, but frankly, I think you're wasting your time. It might be better if I just quit now."
"No," she said, and the intensity of her voice surprised her. "You can't quit. We'll find a way to make it work."
Oliver turned to look at her. "You really care, don't you?"
Am I reading too much into that question? "Yes," she said quietly. "I really care."
When they arrived at her apartment, Leslie took a deep breath. "Would you like to come in?"
He looked at her a long time. "Yes."
Afterward, she never knew who made the first move. All she remembered was that they were undressing each other and she was in his arms and there was a wild, feral haste in their lovemaking, and after that, a slow and easy melting, in a rhythm that was timeless and ecstatic. It was the most wonderful feeling Leslie had ever experienced.
They were together the whole night, and it was magical. Oliver was insatiable, giving and demanding at the same time, and he went on forever. He was an animal. And Leslie thought, Oh, my God, I'm one, too.
In the morning, over a breakfast of orange juice, scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon, Leslie said, "There's going to be a picnic at Green River Lake on Friday, Oliver. There will be a lot of people there. I'll arrange for you to make a speech. We'll buy radio time to let everyone know you're going to be there. Then we'll--"
"Leslie," he protested, "I haven't the money to do that."
"Oh, don't worry about that," she said airily. "The agency will pay for it."
She knew that there was not the remotest chance that the agency would pay for it. She intended to do that herself. She would tell Jim Bailey that the money had been donated by a Russell supporter. And it would be the truth. Ill do anything in the world to help him, she thought.
There were two hundred people at the picnic at Green River Lake, and when Oliver addressed the crowd, he was brilliant.
"Half the people in this country don't vote," he told them. "We have the lowest voting record of any industrial country in the world--less than fifty percent. If you want things to change, it's your responsibility to make sure they do change. It's more than a responsibility, it's a privilege. There's an election coming up soon. Whether you vote for me or my opponent, vote. Be there."
They cheered him.
Leslie arranged for Oliver to appear at as many functions as possible. He presided at the opening of a children's clinic, dedicated a bridge, talked to women's groups, labor groups, at charity events, and retirement homes. Still, he kept slipping in the polls. Whenever Oliver was not campaigning, he and Leslie found some time to be together. They went riding in a horse-drawn carriage through Triangle Park, spent a Saturday afternoon at the Antique Market, and had dinner at A la Lucie. Oliver gave Leslie flowers for Groundhog Day and on the anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run, and left loving messages on her answering machine: "Darling--where are you? I miss you, miss you, miss you."
"I'm madly in love with your answering machine. Do you have any idea how sexy it sounds?"
"I think it must be illegal to be this happy. I love you."
It didn't matter to Leslie where she and Oliver went: She just wanted to be with him.
One of the most exciting things they did was to go whitewater rafting on the Russell Fork River one Sunday. The trip started innocently, gently, until the river began to pound its way around the base of the mountains in a giant loop that began a series of deafening, breathtaking vertical drops in the rapids: five feet ... eight feet ... nine feet ... only a terrifying raft length apart. The trip took three and a half hours, and when Leslie and Oliver got off the raft, they were soaking wet and glad to be alive. They could not keep their hands off each other. They made love in their cabin, in the back of his automobile, in the woods.
One early fall evening, Oliver prepared dinner at his home, a charming house in Versailles, a small town near Lexington. There were grilled flank steaks marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and herbs, served with baked potato, salad, and a perfect red wine.
"You're a wonderful cook," Leslie told him. She snuggled up to him. "In fact, you're a wonderful everything, sweetheart."
"Thank you, my love." He remembered something. "I have a little surprise for you that I want you to try." He disappeared into the bedroom for a moment and came out carrying a small bottle with a clear liquid inside.
"Here it is," he said.
"What is it?"
"Have you heard of Ecstasy?"
"Heard of it? I'm in it."
"I mean the drug Ecstasy. This is liquid Ecstasy. It's supposed to be a great aphrodisiac."
Leslie frowned. "Darling--you don't need that. We don't need it. It could be dangerous." She hesitated. "Do you use it often?"
Oliver laughed. "As a matter of fact, I don't. Take that look off your face. A friend of mine gave me this and told me to try it. This would have been the first time."
"Let's not have a first time," Leslie said. "Will you throw it away?"
"You're right. Of course I will." He went into the bathroom, and a moment later Leslie heard the toilet flush. Oliver reappeared.
"All gone." He grinned. "Who needs Ecstasy in a bottle? I have it in a better package."
And he took her in his arms.
Leslie had read the love stories and had heard the love songs, but nothing had prepared her for the incredible reality. She had always thought that romantic lyrics were sentimental nonsense, wishful dreaming. She knew better now. The world suddenly seemed brighter, more beautiful. Everything was touched with magic, and the magic was Oliver Russell.
One Saturday morning, Oliver and Leslie were hiking in the Breaks Interstate Park, enjoying the spectacular scenery that surrounded them.
"I've never been on this trail before," Leslie said.
"I think you're going to enjoy it."
They were approaching a sharp curve in the path. As they rounded it, Leslie stopped, stunned. In the middle of the path was a hand-painted wooden sign: LESLIE, WILL YOU MARRY ME?
Leslie's heart began to beat faster. She turned to Oliver, speechless.
He took her in his arms. "Will you?"
How did I get so lucky? Leslie wondered. She hugged him tightly and whispered, "Yes, darling. Of course I will."
"I'm afraid I can't promise you that you're going to marry governor, but I'm a pretty good attorney."
She snuggled up to him and whispered, "That will do nicely."
A few nights later, Leslie was getting dressed to meet Oliver for dinner when he telephoned.
"Darling, I'm terribly sorry, but I've bad news. I have to go to a meeting tonight, and I'll have to cancel our dinner. Will you forgive me?"
Leslie smiled and said softly, "You're forgiven."
The following day, Leslie picked up a copy of the State Journal. The headline read: WOMAN'S BODY FOUND IN KENTUCKY RIVER. The story went on: "Early this morning, the body of a nude woman who appeared to be in her early twenties was found by police in the Kentucky River ten miles east of Lexington. An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death...."
Leslie shuddered as she read the story. To die so young Did she have a lover? A husband? How thankful I am to be alive and so happy and so loved.
It seemed that all of Lexington was talking about the forthcoming wedding. Lexington was a small town, and Oliver Russell was a popular figure. They were a spectacular-looking couple, Oliver dark and handsome, and Leslie with her lovely face and figure and honey-blond hair. The news had spread like wildfire.
"I hope he knows how lucky he is," Jim Bailey said.
Leslie smiled. "We're both lucky."
"Are you going to elope?"
"No. Oliver wants to have a formal wedding. We're getting married at the Calvary Chapel church."
"When does the happy event take place?"
"In six weeks."
A few days later, a story on the front page of the State Journal read: "An autopsy has revealed that the woman found in the Kentucky River, identified as Lisa Burnette, a legal secretary, died of an overdose of a dangerous illegal drug known on the streets as liquid Ecstasy...."
Liquid Ecstasy. Leslie recalled the evening with Oliver. And she thought, How lucky it was that he threw that bottle away.
The next few weeks were filled with frantic preparations for the wedding. There was so much to do. Invitations went out to two hundred people. Leslie chose a maid of honor and selected her outfit, a ballerina-length dress with matching shoes and gloves to complement the length of the sleeves. For herself, Leslie shopped at Fayette Mall on Nicholasville Road and selected a floor-length gown with a full skirt and a sweep train, shoes to match the gown, and long gloves.
Oliver ordered a black cutaway coat with striped trousers, gray waistcoat, a wing-collared white shirt, and a striped ascot. His best man was a lawyer in his firm.
"Everything is set," Oliver told Leslie. "I've made all the arrangements for the reception afterward. Almost everyone has accepted."
Leslie felt a small shiver go through her. "I can't wait, my darling."
On a Thursday night one week before the wedding, Oliver came to Leslie's apartment.
"I'm afraid something has come up, Leslie. A client of mine is in trouble. I'm going to have to fly to Paris to straighten things out."
"Paris? How long will you be gone?"
"It shouldn't take more than two or three days, four days at the most. I'll be back in plenty of time."
"Tell the pilot to fly safely."
When Oliver left, Leslie picked up the newspaper on the table. Idly, she turned to the horoscope by Zoltaire. It read:
For Leo (July 23rd to August 22nd). This is not a good day to change plans. Taking risks can lead to serious problems.
Leslie read the horoscope again, disturbed. She was almost tempted to telephone Oliver and tell him not to leave. But that's ridiculous, she thought. It's just a stupid horoscope.
By Monday, Leslie had not heard from Oliver. She telephoned his office, but the staff had no information. There was no word from him Tuesday. Leslie was beginning to panic. At four o'clock on Wednesday morning, she was awakened by the insistent ringing of the telephone. She sat up in bed and thought: It's Oliver! Thank God. She knew that she should be angry with him for not calling her sooner, but that was unimportant now.
She picked up the receiver. "Oliver ..."
A male voice said, "Is this Leslie Stewart?"
She felt a sudden cold chill. "Who--who is this?"
"Al Towers, Associated Press. We have a story going out on our wires, Miss Stewart, and we wanted to get your reaction."
Something terrible had happened. Oliver was dead.
"Yes." Her voice was a strangled whisper.
"Could we get a quote from you?"
"About Oliver Russell marrying Senator Todd Davis's daughter in Paris."
For an instant the room seemed to spin.
"You and Mr. Russell were engaged, weren't you? If we could get a quote ..."
She sat there, frozen.
She found her voice. "Yes. I--I wish them both well." She replaced the receiver, numb. It was a nightmare. She would awaken in a few minutes and find that she had been dreaming.
But this was no dream. She had been abandoned again. "Your father's not coming back." She walked into the bathroom and stared at her pale image in the mirror. "We have a story going out on our wires." Oliver had married someone else. Why? What have I done wrong? How have I failed him? But deep down she knew that it was Oliver who had failed her. He was gone. How could she face the future?
When Leslie walked into the agency that morning, everyone was trying hard not to stare at her. She went into Jim Bailey's office.
He took one look at her pale face and said, "You shouldn't have come in today, Leslie. Why don't you go home and--"
She took a deep breath. "No, thank you. I'll be fine."
On Monday, September 15, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Sidney Sheldon, author of THE BEST LAID PLANS.
Sidney Sheldon: I am delighted to do this with barnesandnoble.com.
Sidney Sheldon: The characters are all fictional, and if they were not, I would not tell.
Sidney Sheldon: Yes, I try to write books that have interesting characters and interesting situations, and I think this book certainly falls into this category.
Sidney Sheldon: On average in my books, the first draft will come between 1,000 and 1,200 pages. I do up to a dozen rewrites, and the final drafts will run between 600 and 700 typewritten pages.
Sidney Sheldon: I sold my first poem when I was 10 years old, to a children's magazine. I have always known that I wanted to become a professional writer. I was very fortunate.
Sidney Sheldon: Politics is something that obviously affects all of our lives, and I thought it would make a very interesting subject to deal with, particularly in these times.
Sidney Sheldon: In answer to the first part, I did write a sequel. It was called MEMORIES OF MIDNIGHT. I have been asked to write many sequels, but we will have to wait and see. I enjoyed writing that book -- I went to Africa in the diamond mines. I never write about a meal in a restaurant unless I have a meal in that restaurant; I research quite extensively. That was a great book to research, and I am glad you enjoyed it.
Sidney Sheldon: A critic is someone who buys more than one novel of the same author. There are critics who pay their money for what they like, and I have sold 275 million copies around the world, so I take my readers very seriously. They are my critics.
Sidney Sheldon: Thanks for the question. The most exciting is writing a novel, because it is an in-depth kind of writing. When you write a sceenplay, you never describe a character in detail, because if you describe him as tall and lanky and Clint Eastwood turns the part down and you submit it to Dustin Hoffman, you are in trouble. So you just characterize the different types of characters. When you write a novel, you describe not only the character but what he or she is doing, thinking, etc.
Sidney Sheldon: Unfortunately, I will not be coming to New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the world. I based IF TOMORROW COMES in New Orleans, and I think it a fascinating city. I look forward to going there again to visit.
Sidney Sheldon: Well, I hate censorship! And I don't think there is any such thing as a little censorship. It is like pregnancy It is going to grow. And as long as children are protected, I don't think anybody has the right to tell adults what they can read or think.
Sidney Sheldon: It takes me between one and two years to write a book, because I do a great deal of rewriting and I travel all over the world researching my books. I don't have a staff; I do it alone.
Sidney Sheldon: My characters are motivated by several different things, sometimes power, sometimes money; sometimes it is love.
Sidney Sheldon: I think it is a beautiful world, and in the next century we are going to do wonderful things -- breakthroughs in medicine.... To a large degree, we are going to be able to tame nature. The only thing we have to learn to tame is man.
Sidney Sheldon: I did a lot of research. I went to the Los Angeles Times plant so I could get the technical side of how newspapers are put together. I went to the TV station to see how shows are produced. I had already been to Yugoslavia twice, but I read at least a dozen books on the war in Yugoslavia and dozens of magazine articles and newspaper clippings, and I flew to New York to meet a woman war correspondent, Donatalla Lorch, who is over there now. I did every sort of research for this book.
Sidney Sheldon: I am sometimes satisfied and sometimes not as pleased as I would like to be. In some cases, I have a lot of input, but if I am very busy, I can't spend as much time as I would like to. So the answer is, it varies from project to project.
Sidney Sheldon: Yes, I have a play in mind and a musical in mind. Well, you devote a year or two to writing a play, and in two hours, on opening night, you find out if you have wasted your time or are successful. A playwright keeps rewriting and rewriting. You change things according to the audience's likes and dislikes.
Sidney Sheldon: It was very difficult growing up then because there were so many unemployed people. You had to create your own scene to do what you wanted to do. Yes, I think I was greatly influenced by my environment. It teaches one compassion and what people can go through.
Sidney Sheldon: First off, I am in love with her! And I have already started a new novel, TELL ME YOUR DREAMS, which will be out next year.
Sidney Sheldon: I am deeply grateful to you!
Sidney Sheldon: From our lives!
Sidney Sheldon: I love to travel. I love good food. I love to be with my wife, Alexendra! And as far as hobbies are concerned, my only hobby is reading; my work is my vocation and avocation.
Sidney Sheldon: I came to Hollywood when I was 17 years old, and I wanted to be a writer. It was during the Depression, and my mother had given me three weeks to find work out here or to go back to Chicago. I went to the policemen at the studio gates and told them I wanted to be a writer. They all told me the same thing "You don't see anybody." And my three weeks were running out. Fortunately, I heard about readers, people who synopsize stories for busy producers, so I wrote a synopsis of OF MICE AND MEN and I sent it in to all the studios, and two days later, I was working at Universal Studios for 17 dollars a week. I would get up at 4am and work on original stories. The first four didn't sell, but the fifth one did, and I became a screenwriter doing low-budget movies when I was 18 years old. That was the beginning.
Sidney Sheldon: I love you too, and I am married, and I love my wife!
Sidney Sheldon: I have many awards besides the star. I have an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, an Edgar, and a few others, but more important then any of them is being able to reach out and touch people around the world and make them forget their problems for a little while!
Sidney Sheldon: I usually start writing at 9 in the morning and I work until 6, but if I don't sleep well, which is usually the case, I get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and work in my office. I will sleep an hour or two then go back to work. I usually work seven days a week.
Sidney Sheldon: I work in a very different way from most writers When I begin a book, I have no plot. I start with a character. A magazine once said that I am so powerful that all I have to do is tell my publisher three words, then they start the books. It has nothing to do with power -- those were the only three words I knew at the time. I told my publisher I wanted to write about a women who wants to seek revenge, and then I started THE BEST LAID PLANS. I dictate to my secretary, and as I dictate, things take over; I never know what is happening next. I am the reader as well as the writer, and I find that an exciting way to work.
Sidney Sheldon: Yes, I know what my next eight projects are. I have Broadway shows, another two novels, and much more. When I wrote my first novel, I was sure I was going to break every literary record and that I was not going to sell one single book, and to make sure that didn't happen, I went to a bookstore and bought one copy. That has been my ritual ever since. I still go to a bookstore and buy one copy to make sure one copy will sell.
Sidney Sheldon: I was the national spokesperson for the Coalition for Literacy. The statistics on illiteracy in this country are horrifying. The libraries around the country now have programs to teach people to read and write, and my suggestion is to go to your local library and ask them what to do to help.
Sidney Sheldon: Thank you! It is hard to say, but nearly all of my novels have been made into TV movies; my new one will be on the same route. FYI I will be in Quebec doing research for my new book in November.
Sidney Sheldon: If he wants to be a writer, encourage him, and if he doesn't want strongly to be a writer, don't encourage him. The encouragement should come from within himself!
Sidney Sheldon: I never talk about my books in advance....
Sidney Sheldon: God willing! Thank You!
Sidney Sheldon: It has been my pleasure to talk to some of my readers. In fact, the new book is dedicated to my readers with much gratitude. Thanks!
Posted August 18, 2012
Posted June 15, 2012
Posted May 28, 2012
Couldn't put it down. I thought i had it all figured out, but I should have known better. Love the way Mr. Sheldon wrote. A constant surprise. Always captivating.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 7, 2011
Posted March 12, 2011
The beginning was slow. Too many pieces were being put together out of nowhere. But very nice twists and turns as always Sidney delivers on tales from the Corrupt. Another tale of fame, fortune, murder, and revenge. This one was a little harder to guess the "whodunit".ust when I thought everything was coming to an end Wham, I was slapped across the face with more intriguing twists.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 4, 2010
Posted March 8, 2008
i bought this book i think more than months ago and since it was an old book, i concentrated on new ones first. it's a good thing that i read it because this is a good book with a lot of twist, though less action and a little bit of fun. i was flat on my stomach then suddenly standing upright then sit after. i guess i moved a lot in my room while reading this. I highly recommend this book and more than my thumbs up for mr. sheldonWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 26, 2005
Posted October 4, 2004
Posted June 5, 2004
Posted February 24, 2004
Posted July 9, 2003
This is a very fast, engrossing read. However, by the last fifty pages, I was prepared to be seriously unimpressed by the story as a whole. I was wrong. The ending is completely unpredictable. I even went back and read a few scenes to see if it fit with everything that had happened previously. It does. Great work. Could be five star material if the plot and characters were a little more original.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 22, 2003
Once I began reading it was hard for me to put the book down. The writting is supurb, easy to follow and easy to picture the situations in your mind. I love this book and would recomend it to anyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 5, 2003
Posted March 5, 2003
This is the 5th book I have read from Sidney Sheldon. I can truly say that this is on my top 10 list of books to read. The way Mr. Sheldon writes makes the book come to life right before my eyes. The first book that I have read by him is 'Rage of Angels' and ever since then I have not been able to put any of his books down. I have not been able to find a writer as good.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 26, 2001
I'm one of the legions of Sidney Sheldon's fans. But, this book is a disaster for me. I thought that after i read it, i was just wasting my time. He should have given Leslie a different twist than marrying that old rich guy. He should have given a little of Dana's role to Leslie and remove Dana from the character's lists. And moreover, i felt that the climax would have been much better if it was focused on whether Oliver would have become President of USA, as Leslie would be able to uncover his 'bones in his closet'. I think, that way, it would have been much and more thrilling.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 12, 2001
As always, Sheldon keeps you turning the pages to read what's going to happen next. Its a book hard to put down with its intrique and suspense. A little suspense, mystery, murder, mixed with vendetta - I found this piece of literature very good, even to the unsuspecting ending. I'm a movie buff, but Sheldon keeps me reading!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 19, 2001
This fast-moving and highly charged book meets the expectations Sheldon sets for himself and chronicles the deceit and lies that go on in the White House and government. Not surprisingly, money and power can have a huge effect on life decisions, as Leslie and Oliver find out. But not to be undone, Leslie has the final word years later, when she has built an empire to equal that of Sentaor Davis and returns to seek her revenge.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2000
I've never been disappointed by any of Sidney Sheldon's books, and this one was no exception. He never fails to have me turn the pages again and again, every spare moment I have, until I finish the book. Great ending!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 20, 2000
The Best Laid Plans was not an exception to Sheldon's absorving and swerving writting. Though it is not his fastest paced book, it treats both, banal and substantial themes in such way that the reader -being something rare in Sheldon's style- creates a sort of empathy towards the characters because of the situations they have to live. To then realize, while watching the news for instance, that such situations are the everyday bread of unfortunate, but rather quantious people. I enjoyed it a lot and recommended for refreshing reading. Being a Sheldon fan, it has become an instinct to read every book that's at reach. If you happen to come across with it, get it it is worth it. My congratulations to the master who can write a film that would be projected on the readers' head... at a very fast pace!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.