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Author Biography: Amanda Brown is the author of Legally Blonde, upon which the acclaimed film was based. Formerly a student at Stanford Law School, Ms. Brown is now a full-time novelist.
Becca Reinhart laughed. Her eyes were bright, shining with humor as she listened to her telephone call. Her loose black hair brushed her shoulders as she shook her head in protest. She laughed, but her answer was firm. No way.
She stood leaning against her desk, her long, graceful arms supporting her tall figure as she turned her eyes toward Central Park. In a second she had absorbed the lush view of dewy treetops surrounding the pond. She breathed deeply, adjusting her headset. She began to pace.
Worn into the border of her Turkish carpet was a footpath, the wake of her intense relationship with the telephone. The carpet was rubbed to a vague crushed pattern of scarlet, gold, and cobalt in that rectangular path, once a meticulously designed border, hand-woven and delicate. It was, perhaps, a mismatch from the start. Nothing about Becca Reinhart or her restless, money-drenched world was delicate.
"A thousand times no!" Becca insisted, grinning with amusement. "Listen, I've met him. The guy's rude to his own shadow. Abby Joseph Cohen wouldn't give him a buy."
She stopped in front of her brass-studded leather chair, which functioned mainly as a padded shelf for her incoming files and faxes. To those who knew her, the end of her pacing was a sign that she was ready to end the discussion or the deal. If she had a nickel for every lawyer her mother wanted her to date!
"Not even a hold, Mom," she said firmly. "He's an absolute sell." Becca glanced down at her open desk-calendar, searching it quickly for an excuse. "Anyway, I'm out of town. I'm in Hong Kong next week through Saturday."
Though Becca's feet were still, she kept her hands busy. With a stray pen she scribbled idly on the Saturday block of her calendar.
"I know it's a holy day, Mom," she said. She hung her head.
Her eyes traveled for comfort out the northern window of her West Fifty-seventh Street office, her gaze resting again on the unparalleled extravagance of Central Park. Manhattan's great, enduring, beckoning heart. Inhaling the view like pure oxygen, Becca spoke with renewed confidence.
"I'm meeting with the finance minister, Mom. What was I supposed to do, reschedule?"
She leaned against her desk, staring at its scattered papers. Her hair brushed her chin and her shoulders as she nodded. She glanced at the screen of her computer, which indicated several dozen new messages had arrived. All were first priority.
"All right, Mom. I'll try," she promised.
Becca waved her hand as the quick little figure of Philippe, her secretary, popped his head into her office. His hair, until recently jet black, had been highlighted with some gray, achieving a salt-and-pepper look that people typically paid to erase. With a gesture of welcome, she invited him to take a seat on her couch.
Philippe returned her smile and reclined on the couch to wait. He began to page through an issue of The Economist, the only reading material displayed on Becca's coffee table.
Today is the third of September, but it feels like June, thought Philippe. A dull haze hung in the thick, humid air. The sun seemed to have ripened, swelling in intensity as if to remind the city masses that summer held court for another three weeks.
Philippe looked affectionately at Becca, who had resumed pacing as she laughed into the telephone. Her restless energy had made him nervous when he first met her, but Philippe had come to appreciate, even to crave, the warmth of Becca's style. She was an incredible creature.
Between board meetings, speaking tours, conferences, and the usual round of deal negotiations, Becca had been traveling every week this summer. It was natural to her; travel suited her pace. There were days at a time when she was nothing but a blur to Philippe, racing past his desk with her Pullman suitcase bumping and rolling behind her, hurrying to finish the call on her headset before she lost cellular service in the elevator.
Becca had fire, the effects of which he saw reflected in the faces of the clients and hopefuls that revolved through her office. Sometimes their worn lines of anticipatory tension were soothed by her competence, her iron reliability. And other times he ducked to search for imaginary files under his desk, unwilling to meet the violent eyes of the seekers of capital who came away burned.
Philippe was amazed that Becca could survive the physical pressure of travel on top of her intense load of back-to-back meetings. She changed time zones with chameleonlike agility. Every day she met with companies at the make-or-break stage, and handled their urgent pleadings with integrity and dispatch. He wondered, sometimes, what Becca would have done without this demanding career. Would she run marathons? Climb mountains? He knew she was cut out for something extraordinary.
He smiled to see her suitcase by the door, standing at the ready. Becca prepacked her bags for different climates and labeled each piece of luggage for maximum travel efficiency. A brass rimmed tag that dangled on the Louis Vuitton rolling bag that leaned against the wall read "London, Autumn."
Philippe knew she was tightly scheduled as usual. She would hardly have time to adjust to the six hour time change before she was supposed to conduct a meeting to evaluate an offer for the shares of Machovia, a Davis Capital portfolio company in whom she was the single largest private investor. Though they had not put the company up for sale, an unexpected and tempting offer had come in. She would take a helicopter from the city to the Teterboro Airport in New Jersey where the Davis Capital plane would land her at Heathrow at 10 A.M. London time. Most people took at least three days on the ground before returning from business in London. Becca would be three days door-to-door.
She had succeeded quickly in this unyielding world, thanks to the gamble Dick Davis had made on her when he gave her the chance to join the partnership five years ago. She was leading the technology group at Morgan Stanley at the time, a young analyst with a sterling reputation for her exhaustive, diligent research and an iron stomach for risk. Her returns, even in the bear market, were unbeatable.
Dick Davis, the founding partner of Davis Capital, had left Bear Stearns nearly twenty years before to found the venture capital firm. He had seeded it at first with the fortune that his wife inherited from her grandfather's piece of Standard Oil. Today the firm managed eleven billion dollars of invested capital.
Becca would never forget what Dick Davis made possible for her: to enter the elite, private partnership of Davis Capital as a relative child. She was twenty-six years old when she started with the firm. Dick's confidence in Becca was aggressive, and she soon proved it to be well-placed.
Though it carried the Davis flag, the name that came to mind when anyone thought of Davis Capital was Becca Reinhart. At thirty-one years old, Becca Reinhart was by far the firm's youngest partner, and on their portfolio compensation scheme, she was also the best paid. Her own portfolio made up nearly forty percent of revenues and over half the profits of the firm. Becca had high visibility from her very first day at Davis Capital.
Her brash entry into the firm was an industry legend. The day she accepted Dick's offer, Becca got his secretary, Philippe, on the phone, asked him what he made, and offered him more money to come and work for her. She wanted somebody who knew the business, she said, and who better than her boss's secretary?
"Poached my secretary," Dick would laugh, pretending to complain about her hard bargaining, "and she didn't blink an eye!" He told the story all over Wall Street. He had wisely chosen not to fight her. With a knowing smile, he told Philippe to pack up his desk. Dick realized at that moment that Becca's confidence was going to make the partnership rich.
Philippe was happy with the switch, as he had never been fond of Dick Davis's overbearing wife. For Becca, as long as he could talk fast, type fast, and schedule every ten minutes precisely for the next three months, he stayed above the water. He managed Becca's calendar, and her travel, copied the reports for her meetings, and trotted in with her faxes, sorted her mail, and kept her files secure. She had another assistant to handle the phones, and the analysts took care of her research. The clippings service prepared its own news summaries.
Becca could have a staff of fifty, Philippe marveled, and she wouldn't know what to do with it. She had never quite learned how to delegate. She put a bear hug on her own companies, and served on dozens of their boards. For travel, however, she had learned to lean on Philippe.
In a moment she was rushing toward the couch to join him.
"Did you get my message?" She held her breath, glancing at the eastern standard clock on the wall. Eleven-thirty. Her eyes, dark and expressive, shone with energy as she turned toward Philippe for his answer.
"Check," he said, nodding simply. "Consider it done."
He stroked his hair, intending to draw her attention to it. This color was a big change for him. Alexander, his partner, who ran a fashionable Upper East Side salon, had worked for days to get just the right silver tone in the gray on his temples.
She paused. "I'm in London till Tuesday; I arrive in New York at six-thirty in the morning. We're doing an eight o'clock meeting at Wasserstein; I won't have time to get back here after the flight."
He ran a hand over his salt-and-pepper hair. "I know, Becca. I scheduled the meeting. I love to wait on you in my spare time."
"What is spare time?" she shot back with a laugh.
She dug the JFK locker key from her desk drawer, being careful not to confuse it with the La Guardia key, and scribbled down her combination to the electronically secured file room in which she kept the permanent records for her portfolio companies. She began to describe the precise location of the Wasserstein files when Philippe waved impatiently.
"I filed them, sweetie, I know," Philippe assured her. He was practically pointing to his hair with both hands in his eagerness for her to notice it. He tried to catch Becca's nomadic eyes and saw that her glance had passed him already. She was moving again, headed toward the coffee bar.
Philippe began to feel a little testy, and paused to console himself that his hair was not at fault in her failure to notice him: it was Becca's fundamental lack of attention to appearances. He remembered the day she asked Dick Davis when he had started wearing glasses. It was just a few months ago, when they were working late in his office on the Celex deal.
"Nineteen-ninety two," Dick had informed her, to Becca's enormous surprise. Dick still laughed about that.
Philippe declined the latte that Becca, standing in front of her coffee bar, offered to him. Her imposing black coffee machine, mounted into the wall, featured over thirty small silver buttons that produced on demand an infinite variety of coffees. For herself she pushed the espresso button five times before placing a large mug below the coffee spout.
Philippe broke down. "Look at my hair, Becca," he pleaded.
She turned her head at once. "Philippe," she said, smiling broadly, "it's great!"
"The Old Economy's back in," he boasted, sauntering toward her. "Alexander says people are rushing into the salon for gray temples and sideburns. Gravitas is hot, you know. Credibility is back."
Becca put the coffee in the refrigerator to cool so she could drink it quickly.
"Good thing," she said, grinning. "Now how do we sell it?"
She closed the door behind Philippe, turning quickly to answer a call that the secretary had put through. She said hello to David Sheffer and simultaneously pulled on her nylon warm-ups. She had determined that it saved a few minutes for her run if she pulled on the work-out clothes at the same time she was undressing. For one second she moved the phone and slid off her shirt and bra. Becca was in a hurry. She had scheduled herself to take a run at twelve-fifteen, and she stuck to her schedule.
Sheffer was the external lending director of the European Investment Bank. Becca had known David when he ran the European equities platform at Morgan Stanley. It was a strange time to call from Luxembourg, she said; he replied that he was in New York. He had a German paper company he wanted to put her on to, which the EIB wouldn't fund because of his family's stake in the business. She agreed to meet with the German CEO next week, if she could get a translator, and appreciated him sending over the company's information. She tapped an e-mail on her computer directing Philippe to adjust her schedule to leave open a half hour next Thursday.
David held for a second while Becca slipped her jogging bra and a T-shirt carefully over her headset. Her eyes roved around her office. There were a half-dozen stacks of paper to read, all before she left for London. The messages and faxes piled up by the minute; if she had an impromptu social conversation in the hall, it knocked her off schedule. Empty mugs lined the coffee machine, alternating with empty Evian bottles: now and again one pile of mugs would disappear and clean ones would appear in their place.
Becca glanced at the bagels, still untouched, which she had delivered to her office every morning to guard against the real possibility of starvation. She tried to keep a bagel in her purse for the times when she ran to get a cab and felt the sidewalk spinning.
Becca used time as efficiently as she thought it could be used.
Marking the time on the clock, Becca started the treadmill on Alpine Walk, making conclusory remarks into her headset to let David know she had no more business with him. Then David got to the real point of his phone call.
He had a nephew that he would like her to meet for dinner with this week.
She cranked the machine up to Hard Jog. Not another nephew!
Becca did her best to listen politely, since she did want to check out the German paper firm as a possible investment, but the setup was difficult to endure. Was she wearing a sign? Desperate Single Girl: Marry Me Please? She pounded through her workout, fueled by indignity.
"He's thirty-four," David offered, a bit tragically. "Lawyer at Simpson Thatcher, good practice, good prospects. Never married."
"Frankly, David," she told him flatly, "I'm more interested in the business piece. I'll let you know how the paper company looks after we talk." She cut off the call and ran for several minutes as hard as she could.
Becca couldn't understand why capable professionals, with whom she had a solid business relationship, were always trying to get her married. She didn't ask after their prospects. She didn't comment on their divorces, their affairs. Why was her personal life so interesting to them? Didn't they see how busy she was?
It had gotten worse since she turned thirty-one last year. Even her mother, for whom marriage had never done any favors, was constantly after her to give a nice boy like Gary Yahkzen a chance. Everybody had something to offer, her mother would point out, despite apparent shortcomings. Who says it's not nice to be a urologist?
Her father must have found something useful in the state of marriage, Becca reflected, with the spite she reserved for the man who had abandoned her mother. He had tried it twice. When her mother was being treated-successfully, thank God-for her cancer, Becca's father and the chemo nurse began an affair. He eventually married her. Her father's betrayal never lost its bitterness.
He had left her mother when Becca was only ten, and for all practical purposes, she considered her father to be dead. She never spoke of him. But Becca's mother, Arlene, had more than filled the void her father left. To Becca, Arlene was both parents and a dear friend, not to mention a conscience.
Becca tried to get to Brooklyn on Friday for Shabbos dinner with her mom, but these days she only made it every other month or two. Things were all right between them, though, in spite of Becca's absence. Becca and her mother were secure in their love for each other, and both were good friends of the telephone.
Becca was her mother's sole source of financial support, outside of the part-time work Arlene did at her temple, where really she went just to stay in the congregation's loop. Lately Arlene had been hearing about everybody's grandchildren. If Becca had spent an afternoon kibitzing with Arlene's friends, she would understand the logic that motivated Arlene's sudden interest in matchmaking.
She felt the muscles of her calves stretching from the pull of racing with the treadmill. The workout was an extreme one. Becca tried to exhaust her natural intensity before she conducted client meetings. Even the hours of travel, she knew, would not wear her down. She hoped she would appear mellow and reasonable if she conducted the meetings in a state of physical exhaustion. Her feet and her mind raced together as Becca rehearsed the speech she was giving at the Capital Markets meeting next week.
Checking her watch, Becca wound down the treadmill. She kept her exercise clothes on, tugged an Armani pantsuit from her closet and folded it in a tight sleeping-bag roll. The pantsuit went into her shoulder bag along with shoes, stockings, and an underwear set that would have surprised any of her fellow board members with its sexy, lacy femininity. She intended to shower and change at the airport's VIP lounge.
She combed her hair with her fingers in the small mirror on the office wall, not the least bit aware of the way the sunlight picked up the red tones, all natural, in her dark, glossy hair.
A dab of lipstick and she was off.
"Becca-your mother is on the phone," Philippe said over the intercom.
That was strange. Her mother never called without reason. She sighed-she was already behind schedule.
"Mom?" She cradled the phone on her shoulder and flipped through the messages in her in-box.
"Honey"-her mother jumped right in as though they were in the middle of a conversation-and perhaps they were-a marathon lifelong exchange of ideas and feelings. Becca never understood the problems other women had with their mothers.
"Yes, Mom-what's up?"
"I don't mean to be nosy."
"Yes, you do."
"Okay-so I am. But you don't sound exactly right. Is something making you nervous?"
Only a mother-or maybe only Arlene Reinhart-could look straight through all the froufrou and braggadocio into her daughter's soul.
"Well, not that it's bothering me too much. But the owner of the London company is not a great supporter of women arbitrageurs. And he doesn't know how old I am."
"You mean how young."
"Listen to me, Becca Reinhart. Remember whenever you feel nervous anywhere, anytime, you just turn around and look back to who you come from all the way up the Reinhart line."
"You say that all the time."
"So it works every time, am I right?"
Becca's dark eyes shone with the electric heat of her intelligence and joie de vivre. "You got me there, Mom-"
"Okay. So maybe you'll call from there?"
Grrr. Her mother was fabulous-she was also a scholar of those lessons mothers learned from the Secret Mother Rules they all seemed to follow.
"Love you, Mom," Becca blew her a kiss and left her office seemingly while her feet, in their Diesel running shoes, were in midair.
Becca hurried past Sam Wattenberg's office. Sam's door was open.
"Becca," he called, leaping from his desk chair.
She kept moving. Sam followed her.
"Sam, I've got a meeting at the airport at three and a flight at six," she told him over her shoulder.
"I've got a press conference in ten minutes. Any recessionary expectations?"
Stepping sideways toward the elevator, Becca ticked off a few suggestions.
"Venezuela, Peru, and Columbia plunge this year. Russia's always in recession, so throw it in. Egypt looks bad, Czech Republic is slipping. Japan may make it, but I'd put it in the slide category. Argentina probably goes with Peru. I've got to go, Sam!"
Becca blew Philippe a little kiss. The elevator doors closed, and she smiled broadly, taking a deep breath as she dug her hand in her Hogan bag to check for her Palm, her phone, her ticket confirmation, and her wallet.
She could feel her heart beating rapidly as she thought ahead to the meeting in London. Sexist issues aside, the offer for her British company was likely to get approved; Becca would recommend accepting it and she thought she had the votes on her side. She had always liked that company, and she had a good feeling about this deal. It was proving to be a smart investment. She could bet on getting tapped for a spot on the holding company's board of directors, if she wanted one.
She smiled, looking forward to the manicure she would get from the Davis Capital's in-flight spa therapist. Becca felt a surge of enthusiasm as the elevator doors opened in the lobby. The Davis car was waiting to take her to the airport. She could start calling the American directors right away and get a count of their votes. She had assumed the board was accepting proxies, but she should get that into the minutes of the meeting. She'd move for that at once; she'd have to make sure to have a second to back her up. Who should she call? Who had the next largest investment? Her mind began to race: She had little time and much to do.
She barely noticed the sharp, quick, sad, prescient pull at her heart. Later she would understand. Becca Reinhart breathed deeply. She loved her job.
—from Family Trust by Amanda Brown, Copyright © 2003 by Amanda Brown, published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission of the publisher.
Posted December 29, 2003
I've read my share of 'Chick Lit' books, and I must say that this is one of my favorites. I read this book while we traveling to a wedding, and it made the whole trip seem shorter. The characters in this book are so enjoyable and realistic. GREAT BOOK!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 28, 2003
This book read like a movie. Like 'Legally Blonde' I definitely see it heading to the big screen. It will be the summer's hottest 'chick-flick', no doubt. I can see no one else but Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey as Becca and Edward. It's as if those roles were written for them. I kept picturing Adrian, the wedding planner, as a 'Kojo'-like character. LOL! Overall, this book is a fast, light read and although predictable, it's loads of fun if you like romantic comedies. I would definitely recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 28, 2003
Bottom Line: Overall, the book was a good and quick read (~325 pages), and was enjoyable, mostly because Amanda Brown keeps it from getting too heavy and the story is fun. Right away, you know what kind of story this is. The book starts out with a detailed description of Becca, a high-powered financial something-or-another, who doesn't have time to stop to eat, let alone date. So much so, that she has to have back up bagels around just in case she forgets to nourish herself. Then, it goes into a detailed description of Edward, who is obviously too rich to plan his own dates (he needs a 'social secretary' whose sole job is to decide which functions that he'll attend and with whom), and doesn't seem to do anything besides attend benefits. Their lives seem to be perfect, but is it really? What's missing is the precocious little girl. They get their opportunity to become complete when Emily is bequeathed upon them when her parents make her an orphan. Although I can't recall if it was explained, it doesn't matter, it furthers the plot. This is where is becomes somewhat predictable, as they try to adjust to life with her, fall in love with each other and her and find that the lives they had been living were shallow and empty without a child. As a parent, I can almost understand that message. Not to say that the book was fun to read, almost a guilty pleasure like watching Jerry Springer. It makes you feel good imaging privaleged folk have to deal with things that us everyday folk deal with everyday. Since this is by the author of Legally Blonde, you can bet there's going to be a movie. I see Christina Applegate playing Becca and Hugh Grant as Edward. (You heard it here first!)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.