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First, Best And Only
By Barbara Delinsky
MIRACopyright © 1986 Barbara Delinsky
All right reserved.
Instinct told Marnie Lange that it was wrong, but she'd long ago learned not to blindly trust her instincts. For that very reason she'd surrounded herself with the best, the brightest, the most capable vice-presidents, directors and miscellaneous other personnel to manage those ventures in which she'd invested. Now her staff was telling her something, and though she disagreed, she had to listen.
"It's a spectacular idea, Marni," Edgar Welles was saying, sitting forward with his arms on the leather conference table and his fingers interlaced. His bald head gleamed under the Tiffany lamps. "There's no doubt about it. The exposure will be marvelous."
"As vice-president of public relations, you'd be expected to say that," Marni returned dryly.
"But I agree," chimed in Anne Underwood, "and I'm the editor in chief of this new baby. I think you'd be perfect for the premier cover of Class. You've got the looks and the status. If we're aiming at the successful woman over thirty, you epitomize her."
"I'm barely thirty-one, and I'm not a model," Marni argued.
Cynthia Cummings, Anne's art director, joined the fray. "You may not be a model, but you do have the looks."
"I'm too short. I'm only five-five."
"And this will be a waist-up shot, so your height is irrelevant," Cynthia went on, undaunted. "You've got classic features, a flawless complexion, thick auburn hair. You're a natural for something like this. We wouldn't be suggesting you do it if that weren't true."
Anne shifted in her seat to more fully face Marni, who had opted to sit among her staff rather than in the high-backed chair at the head of the long table. "Cynthia's right. We have pretty high stakes in this, too. You may be putting up the money, but those of us at the magazine have our reputations on the line. We've already poured thousands of hours into the conception and realization of Class. Do you think we'd risk everything with a cover we didn't think was absolutely outstanding?"
"I'm sure you wouldn't," Marni answered quietly, then looked at Edgar. "But won't it be awfully presumptuous my appearing in vivid color on every newsstand in the country?"
Edgar smiled affectionately. He'd been working with Marni since she'd taken over the presidency of the Lange Corporation three years before. Personally, he'd been glad when her father had stepped down, retaining the more titular position of chairman of the board. Marni was easier to work with any day. "You've always worked hard and avoided the limelight. It's about time you sampled it."
"I don't like the limelight, Edgar. You know that."
"I know you prefer being in the background, yes. But this is something else, something new. Lange may not be a novice at publishing, but we've never dealt with fashion before. Class is an adventure for the publications division. It's an adventure for all of us. You want it to be a success, don't you?" It was a rhetorical question, needing no answer. "It's not as though you're going to give speech after speech in front of crowds of stockholders or face the harsh floodlights of the media."
"I'd almost prefer that. This seems somehow arrogant."
"You have a right to arrogance," broke in Steve O'Brien. Steve headed the publications division of the corporation, and he'd been a staunch supporter both of Marni and of Class from the start. "In three years you've nearly doubled our annual profit margin. Three years. It's remarkable."
Marni shrugged. She couldn't dispute the figures, yet she was modest about flaunting them. "It's really been more than three years, Steve. I've been working under Dad since I graduated from business school. That adds another four years to the total. He gave me a pretty free hand to do what I wanted."
"Doesn't matter," Steve said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Three, five, seven years — you've done wonders. You've got every right to have your picture on the cover of Class."
"One session in a photographer's studio," Edgar coaxed before Marni could argue further. "That's all we ask. One session. Simple and painless."
She grimaced. "Painless? I hate being photographed."
"But you're photogenic," came the argument from Dan Sobel, Class"s creative director. He was a good-looking man, no doubt photogenic himself, Marni mused, though she felt no more physical attraction for him than she did for either Edgar or Steve. "You've got so much more going for you than some of the people who've been on magazine covers. Hell, look what Scavullo did with Martha Mitchell!"
Marni rolled her eyes. "Thanks."
"You know what I mean. And don't tell me she had any more right to be on a cover than you do."
Marni couldn't answer that one. "Okay," she said, waving her hand. "Aside from my other arguments, we're not talking Scavullo or Avedon here. We're talking Webster." She eyed Anne. "You're still convinced he's the right one?"
"Absolutely," Anne answered with a determined nod.
"I've shown you his covers. We've pored over them ourselves —" her gaze swept momentarily toward Cynthia and Dan " — and compared them to other cover work. As far as I'm concerned, even if Scavullo orAvedon had been available I'd have picked Webster. He brings a freshness, a vitality to his covers. This is a man who loves women, loves working with them, loves making them look great. He has a definite way with models, and with his camera.
Excerpted from First, Best And Only by Barbara Delinsky Copyright © 1986 by Barbara Delinsky. Excerpted by permission.
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